Ahmad Jamal - The Legendary Okeh & Epic Sessions
Audio CD: August 16, 2005
Original Release Date: July 26, 2005
Format: Original recording remastered
Bitrate: 320 kbps
"OKEH" DOKEY, and THE "EPIC LABEL" SESSIONS are SPECTACULAR!!;
Five Stars? This CD deserves SIX!! Highly influential recording! Not only is this one of the GREAT JAZZ TRIOS in history, but it documents an early vestige of the groundbreaking hit "Poinciana" and why no less than Miles Davis himself was mesmerized and influenced enough to record some of the same Jamal songs and, indeed, to imitate the Jamal solo style at times with his trumpet. No? Listen to "Autumn Leaves" here and then go to Cannonball's album "Something Else" and listen to that approximation version, with Hank Jones and Miles Davis both in the role of Mr Jamal. Or listen to the Davis quintet with Red Garland in the role of Mr Jamal. Or listen to "Love For Sale", "Surrey With the Fringe On Top", "Billy Boy", or many others. And Davis readily admitted Jamal's heavy influence on his style, arrangements, and song selection. Even when Miles got away from Jamal-type pianists with Wynton Kelley, Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock, he was still using the Jamal "pedal points", but they were now calling them "modes" to enable extended solos. But enough with the historical roots and influences, let's examine this tremendous CD.
The Okeh label sessions go back to 1951 but suffer no time lag, they are as current as anything piayed today in modern jazz. Ahmad Jamal was READY when he made his appearance as a performing artist. And super guitarist Ray Crawford is a true star in solos, comping, and imitating a wild bongo with his pizzacato plucking, spinning dazzling lines over and over. Tracks 1 to 4 ( from "Surrey...." to "Gal in Calico" ) are terrific solo performances. "Ari and Ukthay" is fantastic but I wonder how many people skipped that track based on the title alone. The 1955 EPIC label sessions continue the excellent performances and some amazing trio interplay between Jamal, Crawford, and his really disciplined bassists, Israel Crosby and Eddie Calhoun ( soon to join Errol Garner in his amazing trios ). Pieces D'Resistance, the best of the best, include the endless vamp of "Squeeze Me"; the nonpariel Jamal ballad style shown in "Crazy He Calls Me"; the forward looking "Poinciana"; Miles Davis favorites "Love For Sale" and "Autumn Leaves"; "Pavanne", the amazing interplay of "Rica Pulca", "The Donkey Serenade" and "Perfidia" among many other DIAMOND PERFORMANCES.
"Love For Sale" ( track 8 ) deserves special consideration. It is simply one of the finest trio performances in Jazz History and one of the premier piano solos of this song ever. Jamal deconstructs and re-constructs this song in every way imaginable, all over a driving drumless latin beat that Jamal and Crawford must sustain while driving the song forward. From gentle nuance to two handed cresendos, in over 8 minutes, Jamal covers the piano from end to end, getting into the extreme notes on either end of the piano that most pianists avoid, and making it an AWESOME experience of shifting dynamics. And Ray Crawford plays a killer solo as well. Jamal's 'comping' is exceptional. One of Jazz' great swinging performances. Note how Jamal repeats one note an amazing 18 TIMES in a row after Crawford's solo, a technique that Miles later used to great effect, and it fits perfectly.
I waited decades for the Epic Lable sessions to come back and the wait was worth it. The 24-bit Digital Remastering is outstanding. Now if someone could only find the Chess/ARGO sessions that include the LP "COUNT'EM 88" with "Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year", "Volga Boatman", and the superb ballad "Maryam" (sp). And also release the outstanding "HEAT WAVE" recording. These two would make my updated recording collection virtually complete. If you PLEASE!
BTW, this CD will permanently reside in my 5 CD disk rotation forever, never to leave the player again. Thanks, Ahmad. ~ RBSProds "RBS"
This collection brings together the early OKeh and Epic recordings of innovative jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal, recorded between 1951 and 1955. Jamal ushered in a new era of melodic improvisation that stood in sharp contrast to bebop's previous innovations. These recordings were all done in trio settings, where the pianist was accompanied by guitarist Ray Crawford, and either Eddie Calhoun (1951 and 1952) or Israel Crosby on bass. The shimmering solos and light as a feather chord voicings are anything but lightweight. Sharp, harmonic invention, economical yet intuitive phrasing, and a deft sense of time pushed Jamal's star to ascendancy. Standout cuts here are his "Surrey with the Fringe on Top," which extrapolates the melody into new harmonic terrain; the beautiful arrangement of the traditional "Billy Boy"; Fats Waller's "Squeeze Me" with its beautiful ostinato, and Jamal's glorious read of "Perfidia." The sound on this set is gloriously remastered. There are period liner notes by Nat Hentoff, and a moving and appreciative essay by Randy Weston. ~ AMG
80 minute limit;
Together, the sessions of the October 1951 and October 1955 produced 22 songs and over 80 minutes of sensational music. Something had to give, however; the reissued CD was limited to only 80 minutes. So, the solution was to cut one track from the CD (SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE) and make the 80-minute limit. It's not the end of the world, but I agree with Stanley Crouch that SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE was one of the two "most interesting" pieces by the group, the other being its cover of Morton Gould's PAVANNE ( which very cover Crouch observes provided the form for Miles Davis's SO WHAT and the melody for John Coltrane's IMPRESSIONS ).
How does one obtain all 22 cuts? There are two ways that come to mind. One, buy this CD and Jamal's POINCIANA ( which contains 12 of the sessions' 22 songs, including ...TENTH AVENUE, on the SONY/CBS "Portrait" label ). Two, the 22 songs are on two CDs were issued separately on the "Jazzotheque" series of the SONY/CBS Jazz Piano Collection catalogue in Europe. ~ M. Feldman
Ahmad Jamal, piano
Ray Crawford, guitar
Eddie Calhoun, acoustic bass (1-6)
Israel Crosby, acoustic bass (7-21)
The Legendary Okeh & Epic Sessions tracks:
1. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top
2. Will You Still Be Mine
3. Ahmad`s Blues
4. A Gal In Calico
5. Aki & Ukthay
6. Billy Boy
7. Black Beauty
8. Love For Sale
9. Something To Remember You By
11. Don`t Blame Me
12. Autumn Leaves
13. They Can`t Take That Away From Me
14. Old Devil Moon
15. It`s Easy To Remember
16. Squeeze Me
17. Crazy He Calls Me
20. Rica Pulpa
21. The Donkey Serenade