256

Ahmad Jamal: After Fajr

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Ahmad Jamal: After Fajr Ahmad Jamal's been making music for over fifty years, yet somehow he's still saddled with a tag as one of Miles Davis' favorite pianists. It's long since time critics put that reference to rest and aimed their focus directly at the master and his music. Jamal has a talent for placing melody front and center, but he always frames it in a bright, sparkling rhythmic context. For Jamal, a fresh delivery is as important as the notes themselves, and After Fajr offers heaps more of his distinct brand of bouncy, pointed lyricism.

Longtime companions James Cammack (bass) and Idris Muhmmad (drums) join the pianist on this set, recorded "in live situation" at Centre Des Arts in Enghien, France. The many years they've spent working together has paid off in a complementary fit where they share roles with trust and enthusiasm. On mellower tunes like "Yours Is My Heart Alone," the trio seems to be holding back (though Jamal does take a trip or two into the lower register to pound points home). However, the energetic "Milan" swings like crazy in unpredictable ways, Cammack alternating rapid-fire between single and double time before taking off in a rush, Muhammad tossing out shifts and conversational accents into open spaces. The piece is a small masterpiece of timing and group momentum.

The title track is the only one with vocals (by Donna McElroy and choral group Vox One), and Jamal's lyrics offer a message of warm companionship, but it just doesn't pack much of a punch. I'm not usually a fan of sugary vocals, though, and others may find it charming. The rest of these pieces, including four other Jamal originals, are consistently engaging and thought-provoking. Jamal makes full use of the range of the piano, juxtaposing tones and phrases in unexpected combinations, fully exploiting his bop vocabulary and riding a light funky edge now and then as well. (I sense Muhammad could go much further in this direction, but he reins in those urges for the most part.)

After Fajr is a really nice record. It's got that magical combination of drive and surprise, looseness and focus, exuberance and contemplation that have always made jazz such inviting and involving music.

Track Listing: I'd Old Fashioned; After Fajr; Milan; Yours Is My Heart Alone; Swahililand; My Heart Stood Still; Time On My Hands; Topsy Turvy; Manhattan Reflections.

Personnel: Ahmad Jamal: piano; James Cammack: bass; Idris Muhammad: drums. Featuring (on 2) Donna McElroy: lead vocals; with vocal group Vox One: Jodi Jenkins Ainsworth: soprano; Yumico Matsuoka: alto; Paul Stiller: tenor; Paul J. Pampinella: baritone; Tom Baskett: bass.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Dreyfus Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


comments powered by Disqus

Shop

More Articles

Read This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People CD/LP/Track Review This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: May 29, 2017
Read Nigerian Spirit CD/LP/Track Review Nigerian Spirit
by James Nadal
Published: May 29, 2017
Read The Colours Suite CD/LP/Track Review The Colours Suite
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 29, 2017
Read Les Liasons Dangereuses 1960 CD/LP/Track Review Les Liasons Dangereuses 1960
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 29, 2017
Read Chapter Five CD/LP/Track Review Chapter Five
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 28, 2017
Read The Hive CD/LP/Track Review The Hive
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 28, 2017
Read "The Hive" CD/LP/Track Review The Hive
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 14, 2016
Read "Windows" CD/LP/Track Review Windows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 12, 2016
Read "Quartet Plus, Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review Quartet Plus, Volume 2
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Moving Still" CD/LP/Track Review Moving Still
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 5, 2016
Read "Luz de Luna" CD/LP/Track Review Luz de Luna
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 9, 2017
Read "Find the Way" CD/LP/Track Review Find the Way
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 26, 2017

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!