Ahmad Jamal's early recording career is given a reasonably in-depth survey on this 18-track, 72-minute collection of material from 1951-1955. The earliest four of these tracks feature him at the head of a trio with guitarist Ray Crawford and bassist Eddie Calhoun, but the remainder of the set (all recorded in 1955) were cut by the lineup with Jamal, Crawford, and bassist Israel Crosby. It might be tamer and more conventional than Jamal's later material, particularly due to the absence of drums (though there are plenty of popping percussion punctuations). It's still highly respectable early cool jazz, with the accent on covers of standards, though there are a few Jamal originals sprinkled in (including one of his most renowned early compositions, the funky "Ahmad's Blues"). Too, this has his interpretation of "Pavanne," which was likely influential on both Miles Davis' "So What" and John Coltrane's "Impressions." Throughout, it's easy to hear why Davis considered Jamal an important musician, as Jamal's style -- swinging, but with a certain amount of clean intellectual precision -- bore obvious connections to the cool jazz Davis and other musicians were also innovating at the time. The liner notes are threadbare, but at least the track listings include personnel details and recording dates.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger