Sunday, August 25, 2013

In review--Wake up to a Groovy Saturday

Ahmad Jamal
Saturday Morning 
Jazz Village/Harmonia Mundi

I enjoyed jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal’s 2012 New York Sessions, Blue Moon recording so when I saw that Jamal had another release coming up, Saturday Morning, I had to hear it.  Aptly titled, the French studio sessions feel like a warm and comfortable Saturday morning, with the dawn just breaking on the horizon.  Think of this CD as a musical cup of coffee without the side effects.  Even the titular track grabs attention with its ostinato and continuous theme played on the piano and surrounded by percussion with plenty of cymbal.  Listeners receive a double dose of this track since a reprise concludes the recording.

The music sounds tight here played like a standard jazz trio of piano, double bass (Reginald Veal) and drums (Herlin Riley) but with extra percussion (Manolo Badrena) that provides the Latin groove.  Edith’s Cake features lyrical piano again surrounded by a bank of cymbals, deep bass, congas, and polyphonic rhythms.  Jamal goes off on a few tangents while exploring the musical terrain then finds his center again with a theme so sweet that this musical coffee goes down easy without any sugar.  Jamal ends the song on a single note that delights and surprises.  The Line takes on a stronger Latin groove than previous tracks and gets funky and I hear echoes of Miles Davis on this track.  Similar to Davis, Jamal has an ear for impressionable melodies.  Even more impressive, Jamal’s fingers work magic on the keyboard with his catchy themes built into virtuosic architecture.

Out of the three covers that appear on the CD, I’m in the Mood for Love never sounded this passionate with the piano climbing rapidly into crescendos with hints of Rachmaninoff here and there.  This rendition could put even a cantankerous person in the mood for love with its soulfulness.  The musicians wax lyrical on Duke Ellington’s I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good with the double bass providing anchor for Jamal’s flights of fancy.  If the music on this disk takes us back to the future (as the opener implies), then guess where I’m heading? And I’ll snap my fingers along to the tune of One to take me there.