Friday, August 13, 2010

Ben Enwonwu, 1921 - 1994

The JazzProfiles editorial staff enjoys listening to Jazz while viewing art, photographs and graphic images.  So while it is hard-at-work preparing a feature on pianist Ahmad Jamal that will post to the blog on Tuesday, August 17th 2010, we thought you’d like to listen to and view its latest Jazz-set-to-art YouTube.

The artist whose work we’ve chosen to celebrate is the late Ben Enwonwu [1921-1994] of The Republic of Niger.  Mr. Enwonwu’s work currently graces the blog as the painting above the quotation by Grover Sales on Jazz & African Rhythm.

The music is pianist Ahmad Jamal’s version of Taboo and it is taken from the Ahmad Jamal Trio: Complete Live at the Spotlite Club 1958 [Gambit Records 69265]. It can also be found on The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions [Mosaic Records MD9-246]. Joining with Ahmad on these Spotlite Club dates are bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier.

Here’s drummer Kenny Washington’s take on this track from his insert notes to the Mosaic Set:

“There are a few memorable jazz performances of Margarita Lecuona's TABOO, but this version for me is the most compelling. The first thing that strikes your ears that's different from any of the previous music is the addition of percussion in the form of a maraca. Believe it or not, as Ahmad has confirmed, Israel Crosby is playing bass and maraca at the same time. He is playing pizzicato with the index finger of his right hand. The maraca is placed between his fourth finger and pinky of the same hand. Somehow he's able to pluck the bass on beats 1 and 3 and move the maraca enough to make the beads inside the shell of the maraca sound on 2 and 4. An astonishing feat of precision and coordination. Ahmad seems to think that [violinist] Joe Kennedy Jr. came up with the concept after seeing some bass players in Latin bands doing this. Ahmad's approach to the melody is very interesting here. He gives it to us like a jigsaw puzzle, disbursing the pieces of the melody over the four-chorus length of the performance. Vernel was an expert at Latin rhythms. Here he changes it up sounding very much like a timbalero. Catch his dialogue with Ahmad during the vamp near the end of this performance.”