Sunday, July 02, 2017

It's Ahmad World

The first Sunday of the new month brings the 300th post to this page, which will be four years old in the Fall, and a celebration of a watershed player considerably older than four.
He was born n 1930 and is turning 87 today, and he's still out doing his thing almost 60 years since he came on the scene with one of the truly formational records of modal jazz, and surely one of the top three live records ever produced in that genre.
He began in the late 1950s, when Jazz was largely taken up with the blazing, 100-notes-per-second torrentiality of bebop, and instantly transformed the landscape, introducing a less-is-more aesthetic that subsequently became one of the central aspects of improvised music.
It's said that Miles Davis met him and tried to wrangle him into his own ensemble to play opposite Bill Evans, but he declined. Throughout his career Miles never hesitated to give him credit for the innovations he brought about, and claimed him as an essential influence on everything the trumpet visionary played.
One of the greatest concerts I ever witnessed was at Yoshi's in Jack London Square in Oakland (I think it was in 2000), where he had Idris Muhammad on drums and an older lady in the audience started taking off her clothes, so delirious was she from the stunning sounds being conjured onstage. Why, in between sets I even got to meet baseball legend Rickey Henderson, who seemed fairly well jazzed that I didn't recognize him until my friend I was with told me with whom I had just spoken.
That might be in the top 5 shows ever for me, right down to the bomber joint my friend and I smoked between sets. The idea that in a fallen and barbaric shitscape of a world, music that transcendent is still possible... well it almost gives me hope for our species making it past 2050. Almost.
That's what today's honoree -- Ahmad Jamal -- means to me, and I'm really grateful he was born and still exists. It's no exaggeration to say that Jazz in general and the specific idea of modal jazz -- where the fast-break chord sequences underpinning sheets of bebop sound and melodic/harmonic filigree of fury are eschewed, in favor of a slower-changing structure in which chords don't so much change as migrate into the sonic territory of others -- owe him a foundational debt.
Man, that Live At the Pershing record, though. If I had a dollar for every time I have played Poinciana from that album, I'd be able to buy the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and make the original Meters play every day for a year or twelve.
Anyway this modal Maestro of utmost taste and distinction is 87 today, so far be it from me not to fire up an equally-as-tasteful 75+ minutes of the man at the peak of his awesome powers, recorded for French radio in 1971 and never issued, but assembled here from two recent rebroadcasts to form the whole concert.
Ahmad Jamal Trio
Studio 104
Maison de la Radio
Paris, France

01 introduction by André Francis
02 Bogota
03 Effendi
04 Manhattan Reflections
05 Extensions
06 Poinciana

Total time: 1:15:25

Ahmad Jamal - piano, electric piano
Jamil Sulieman Nasser - double bass
Frank Gant - drums

two master FM captures of recent France Musique rebroadcasts, composited to form the complete concert
437 MB FLAC/July 2017 archive link
So there it is, 300 posts... honestly when I began doing this, I wasn't certain I'd make it to three posts, but here we are. The madness of this wretched nihilist world can only, in my view, be redeemed -- or at least leant the illusion of tolerability -- by Music, so I do this despite what a pain in the ass it can be because for me, the musicians are the very best of us and the people that represent the very best of what we have to offer. To honor them is an honor for me.
At any rate, I'll return Wednesday with another necessary birthday tribute to the recently fallen, and post #301. But until then, please pull down this show and get into what makes Ahmad Jamal -- born this day way back in 1930 and still going strong -- one of the greatest living expressers of beauty of our world.--J.