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Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at The Penthouse, 1966-1968

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Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at The Penthouse, 1966-1968
It was a time of warring nations, either within themselves or without. John Coltrane had fallen as Miles Davis was firing up the jazz/funk. It was a time of young men screaming, their bodies on fire. Black and white images of villages savaged and children starving.

Into these unrivaled moments—they had just taken down a holy man in Memphis a month before—Ahmad Jamal, his uncluttered allegiance to cool, underscored syncopation, and profound ease and understanding of Erroll Garner's orchestral maneuvers, rides high the groove on Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1966-1968 and conclusively, both then and now, takes your mind off those, and these, turbulent times.

Volume three could unarguably be the master class of the whole endeavor. Which is no small feat considering the gymnastics of Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1963-1964 and Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1965, (both from Elemental Music, 2022.) Here, Jamal, bassist Jamil Sulieman Nasser and drummer Frank Gant lock into that Vulcan Mind Meld thing we were hearing so much about back then, making these performances—no these passing works of art that burn in the brain until only shadows remain—lift the audience into a state of euphoria that is hard to explain but one damn well knows it when it hits.

Take for instance the narrative stretch of "Fantastic Vehicle" and "Misty" from September 29,1966 and "Mr. Lucky," and "Autumn Leaves" from just under a year later. True masterpieces of the form each and every one. Yet this trio plays them in an unprecedented manner and exhilarating form. It is that provocative, harmonic grace only Jamal mastered and with which Davis took great electric liberty.

This is sly, rhythmic derring-do at its best. And it is within these four performances alone that the disc becomes invaluable. "Mr. Lucky" rips with a morse code punctuation and Nasser's fast and furious double timing. Hear him rip full force again on Antonio Carlos Jobim's ageless bossa nova "Corcovado (Quiet Night Of Quite Stars)." "Misty" is just an epic performance, that whole Vulcan Mind Meld thing in full swing. These three are tight but increasingly footloose, (let the two relentless Jamal/Gant fusillades be Exhibits A and B. Let Jamal's effortlessly fascinating runs here and, as on "Autumn Leaves," serve as Exhibits C and D)

Even with the 1967-1968 performances holding to a more classical, yet no more gregarious flaunting, trio approach, Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1966-1968 is immensely satisfying and promises to be one of those killer hot Record Store Day Black Friday releases. But that is hardly the point and probably of no consequence at all. For the music on Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1966-1968 has a decisively no-holds-barred pulse. It may not be exactly the steady beat of the blood, but it is definitely a pulse that keeps one alive.

Track Listing

CD 1: Gloria; Fantastic Vehicle; Misty; Mr. Lucky; Autumn Leaves. CD 2: Corcovado (Quiet Night of the Quiet Stars)Where is Love; Dance to the Lady; Naked City Theme; Emily; Alfie.

Personnel

Album information

Title: Emerald City Nights: Live at The Penthouse, 1966-1968 | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Jazz Detective

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