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About The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions
Tracing back the influence of pianist Ahmad Jamal through his more than 50 years of performing and recording is like trying to repack the explosive components of a fireworks display after it ignites, flares, expands--and flashes again from every cascading branch. His original concepts about melody, rhythm and dynamics were important precursors to the work of such pianists as Red Garland, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie Hancock. His use of extended vamps, his light touch, and his economy--with a strong devotion to playing the spaces"--cleared a path for further innovations by Cedar Walton, Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner and many modalists who were listening to what Jamal was doing. Could modern performer Jacky Terrasson re-imagine a familiar song as brilliantly as he does if Ahmad Jamal had not done it so influentially?
And that's just the piano players. When you factor in such artists as John Coltrane, Cannonball" Adderley, and Miles Davis--whose fifties bands frequently recorded lesser known standards Jamal played in strikingly similar arrangements--and add up all the generations of musicians exposed to their work, you start to see how the sky fills with flaming, colored light.
His recording as a piano trio leader on Argo, owned by Chicago's Chess recording label, began in 1956. And that's where our new retrospective begins on The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions 1956-62. The first definitive collection of his work from this seminal era of his career, it includes all the tunes for which Jamal became renowned, such as Ahmad's Blues," Poinciana," But Not For Me," and Billy Boy," a song so often re-done in Jamal's style that his version has almost become the new standard.
Plus, there is a delightful bonus of 23 tracks that have never appeared before on record, all approved for release by Ahmad himself and each a revelation. Our jam-packed nine-CD package, covering material originally released on 12 LPs, is also a textbook on how to use all the elements of a musical composition not just to entertain, but to invent, beguile, challenge yourself as a musician, and challenge the audience to listen.
Both Modern and Classic
Rehearing these records today is no passive experience. His performances have a quality that forces you to hang on every note. Nothing is ever predictable, and a listener can go from disc to disc with no danger of fatigue setting in. Even songs you are certain you know inside and out are transformed by his tempos, his rhythmic transfusions, or his playful avoidance of familiarity; he will take his time working into the melody, and just as that glow of comfortable recognition surrounds you, he'll break off unexpectedly, often before the line is complete. It has a tantalizing effect that is Jamal's alone. Always teasing, always defying expectations, and always playing what no one else has ever played, including himself. They are timeless recordings, as modern and classic today as when Poinciana," in an era before separate jazz charts were tabulated, climbed to #3 on the Billboard 100 and remained on the top-sellers list for over two straight years.
Like all Mosaic box sets, the collection comes with our deluxe, full-size booklet. It includes discographical information, an extensive interview with Jamal by Kenny Washington, an essay on the sessions by Washington and many rare contemporary photographs. As for the music, all of Jamal's studio and live recordings on Argo from those years are here. In addition to the previously mentioned 23 bonus recordings--many from live dates--there are 113 other tracks to enjoy. The earliest feature Walter Perkins on drums before Fournier took over; there's a 1959 recording date that adds a 15-piece string section under the direction of Joe Kennedy; and a set one year later featuring Kennedy on violin and Ray Crawford on guitar. But the bulk of these sessions were Jamal, Crosby and Fournier on all those great standards, made even more exceptional by Jamal's knowing treatment of them.
When Crosby died in 1962, it put an end to any further adventures from this remarkable group, and at the same time made the music they created immortal. It's no wonder that critic Stanley Crouch put Jamal alongside an Olympus of keyboard gods when he compared his influence on musicians of his day to Jelly Roll Morton, Fletcher Henderson, Ellington, Tatum, Basie, Monk, Horace Silver, and John Lewis in their respective eras. And no great surprise that Miles Davis once told no less an artist that Red Garland where to get his inspiration: play like Jamal."
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies
9 CDs-- $149.00
Michael Cuscuna on Ahmad Jamal: The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions