Ahmad Jamal's 1960s trio, with Israel Crosby on bass and Vernell Fournier on drums, was, to some, one of the more influential small groups in jazz. To others, his work was just a mere cut above lounge playing. Recorded almost two years to the day after his most popular trio album At the Pershing, Happy Moods is a program of mostly standards, a flirtation with a classical piano piece and two Jamal originals. Playing with his patented sneaky left-hand voicings and his jingling right hand, interspersed with block chords all within a lean framework, the performances offered by this album are representative of Jamal's work of the period. He takes a piece of fluff like "Little Old Lady" and transforms it into a fugue replete with the counterpoint that personifies this classical form. An up-tempo "You'd Be So Easy to Love," highlighting Vernell Fournier's brushes, is tastefully garnished with runs and chords borrowed from fellow Pittsburgher Erroll Garner. Billy Strayhorn's "Raincheck" features heady arpeggios as well as quotes from "I'm Beginning to See the Light."
Happy Moods Review
by Dave Nathan