This 2xCD reissue comprises three of Ahmad Jamal
's early and mid 1950s trio albums plus a fourth recorded in 1960 with a quintet. Between times, Jamal had released the totemic trio set At The Pershing
(Argo, 1958), which included the break-out single "Poinciana" (his first, equally lovely, 1955 recording of Nat Simon and Buddy Bernier's tune is included here).
Jamal divided opinion in the 1950s. Some critics wrote him off as "just" a cocktail pianist whose touch was too pretty by half; musicians including Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley
raved about him. In 1958 Davis said: "I live until he makes another record."
Jamal's critics were cloth-eared. He was too multi-faceted to fall into anyone's pigeonhole. His sound was by turns robust and delicate, rococo and spare, down and sentimental, driving and chilled. He arranged his material, mostly three-to-four minute versions of Great American Songbook standards, like miniature, multi-section concertos. Secure in his artistry, Jamal was unfazed by the critics. He just carried on doing his serene and subtle and swinging thingas he is still doing in 2019, witness his album Ballades
The four albums making up Trio & Quintet Recordings With Ray Crawford
, each of them a treasure, are Ahmad Jamal Plays
(Parrot, 1955), later reissued as Chamber Music Of The New Jazz
; The Ahmad Jamal Trio
(Epic, 1956); The Piano Scene Of Ahmad Jamal
(Epic, 1959), compiled of material recorded 1951-55; and Listen To The Ahmad Jamal Quintet
(Argo, 1961). Guitarist Ray Crawford
features on all 43 tracks except one of the bonus tracks, the big band version of Jamal's "New Rhumba" from the Miles Davis
/ Gil Evans
album Miles Ahead
(Columbia, 1957). The other bonus track is "Joy Spring" (Vogue, 1959), the B-side of a single released by a mid-sized Evans ensemble with Crawford the featured soloist.
Jamal chose his lineups as carefully as he arranged his music, and the trios and quintets heard here are as on-song as his later, more celebrated groups. Israel Crosby
is the bassist on three of the albums, and is replaced (only temporarily) on the 1956 set by Eddie Calhoun
, who played bass with another singular keyboard genius, Erroll Garner
. On the 1961 quintet date, violinist Joe Kennedy
is added along with drummer Vernel Fournier
, who had replaced Ray Crawford on 1958's At The Pershing
. (Up until then, Jamal's trios used the same drummerless instrumentation as contemporary ones led by Nat King Cole
and Oscar Peterson
). Trio & Quintet Recordings With Ray Crawford
is where seven decades of historic recordings began. The package is well annotated and the digital remastering is superb. How great to have it all on catalogue once again.
CD1: New Rhumba; A Foggy Day; All Of You; It Ain’t Necessarily So; I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed; I Get A Kick Out Of You; Jeff; Darn That Dream; Spring Is Here; Perfidia; Love For Sale; Rica Pulpa; Autumn Leaves; Squeeze Me; Black Beauty; The Donkey Serenade; Don’t Blame Me; They Can’t Take That Away From Me; New Rhumba.CD2: Old Devil Moon; Ahmad’s Blues; Poinciana; Billy Boy; Will You Still Be Mine; Pavanne; Crazy He Calls Me; The Surrey With The Fringe On Top; Aki And Ukthay; Slaughter On Tenth Avenue; A Gal In Calico; It’s Easy To Remember; Ahmad’s Waltz; Valentina; Yesterdays; Tempo For Two; Halleljah; It’s A Wonderful World; Baia; You Came A Long Way From St Louis; Lover Man; Who Cares; Joy Spring.
Ahmad Jamal: piano (1: 1-19, 2: 1-22); Ray Crawford: guitar (1: 1-19, 2: 1-23); Israel Crosby: bass (1: 1-19, 2: 13-22); Eddie Calhoun: bass (2: 1-12); Joe Kennedy: violin (2: 13-22); Vernel Fournier: drums (2: 13-22); Miles Davis (trumpet) with the Gil Evans Orchestra (1: 20); The Gil Evans Orchestra (2: 23).