One of Miles Davis's favorite musicians, Ahmad Jamal has a unique approach as a pianist, composer, and arranger that is highly influential and distinctive. Possessed of a light, almost classical touch, and a purveyor of negative space and minimal phrasing (his influence on Davis can certainly be seen here), Jamal worked largely in trio settings, and used his conceptions of space and subtlety to create dynamic tensions within the group. At the same time, the artist's work is rooted firmly in the blues and swings intently, without fail. Ahmad's Blues, the trio's 1958 live date in Washington D.C., demonstrates all of these qualities in spades. Supremely attentive playing by bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier (his brush work on the intricate, gear-shifting "Autumn Leaves" is especially noteworthy) provides groundwork, foil, and shifting frames for Jamal's virtuoso explorations. The ensemble's work brings new ideas -- the musicians often incorporate understated mambo, fractured swing rhythms, or airy, abstract structures -- to standards ("Stompin' at the Savoy;" "Cheek to Cheek") and to Jamal's own compositions (the delicate "Seleritus"). Ahmad's Blues allows us to eavesdrop on the sophisticated, innovative artist and company at work.
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