Saturday 16 December 2017

Acoustic vs electric: we're still arguing the toss

COLOURFUL: Ahmad Jamal
COLOURFUL: Ahmad Jamal

Grainne Farren

Ahmad Jamal Poinciana Revisited/Freeflight (Impulse!)

Featuring Ahmad Jamal (piano, electric piano), Jamil Sulieman Nasser (bass), Frank Gant (drums). Recorded 1969 and 1971

Two LPs are reissued on this CD. The first was recorded in New York, the second at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Jamal had already perfected the colourful style that remains his hallmark today: emphatic chords contrasted with rippling right-hand runs; tension and release; changes of pace and tempo underpinned by the steady pulse of bass and drums.

Often he states the theme perfunctorily, wanders away on a train of thought, then returns to it somewhere in the middle before taking his own path again. There is no end to the variety of sound-pictures evoked by tunes like Lament, Theme from Valley of the Dolls, and two quite different versions of Poinciana.

The only downside is the use of a Fender Rhodes electric piano on two of the Montreux tracks. The technology was in its infancy at the time, and it's a relief when Jamal changes back to the acoustic piano.

Curtis Fuller Soul Trombone/ Cabin In The Sky (Impulse!)

Featuring Curtis Fuller (trombone) with sextet and orchestra. Recorded 1961 and 1962

The trombonist was a regular member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers around the time these two LPs were recorded, just a few years after his work on John Coltrane's Blue Train.

The sextet album is in a hard bop vein and features solos by Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) and Cedar Walton (piano) as well as the leader.

The highlights include the melancholy In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning and an extended treatment of Dear Old Stockholm.

Cabin In The Sky, from Vernon Duke's Broadway musical of the same name, is a mixed bag. There are some vigorous brassy numbers like Honey In the Honeycomb, but a few tracks suffer from an overdose of lush strings.

• 'Edel Meade sings Joni Mitchell' is the title of the Newpark graduate's gig next Sunday night in JJ Smyth's, Dublin. This very promising newcomer will be backed by Hugh Buckley (guitar), Cian Boylan (piano), Peter Erdei (electric bass) and Dominic Mullan (drums).

Sunday Independent

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