Jazz: Maestro Jamal returns... and he's brought friends
THE great American pianist Ahmad Jamal returns to Vicar Street on Friday week, January 24. He last played there in 2002 -- an unforgettable concert. This time the trio has grown to a quartet, with James Cammack (bass), Herlin Riley (drums) and Manolo Badrena (percussion).
Born Fritz Jones in Pittsburgh in 1930, he began piano lessons at the age of three, and first appeared in public aged 11, to perform some of Liszt's Études in a competition. He adopted the name Ahmad Jamal as an adult when he converted to Islam.
Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson and Errol Garner were among his earliest jazz influences. After touring with the George Hudson band, he formed his first group and had a hit with his arrangement of the folk song Billy Boy. His 1958 trio record, At the Pershing, struck a chord with jazz fans. Now reissued on CD, it remains one of his most popular albums. His latest CD is Saturday Morning (Jazz Village 2013). Jamal's music is an adventure in sound. Playing all over the piano with powerfully percussive chords and dramatic pauses, he can change in a moment to reveal his lyrical side in a romantic ballad.
James Cammack has been Jamal's regular bass player since 1983, except for brief periods with other groups. He recently released his first recording as leader, Both Sides of the Coin, featuring his own compositions.
Herlin Riley is from New Orleans and has played with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. He previously worked with Jamal in the 1980s. He has also led his own quartet and accompanied singers Dianne Reeves and Erica Falls.
Manolo Badrena was born in Puerto Rico. He was a member of Weather Report in the 1970s and went on to play with pianist/composer Carla Bley. His recordings with Ahmad Jamal include Live in Paris (Dreyfus, 1996).