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“Ahmad Jamal is a miracle!
He has the most powerful gift of anybody I have ever seen or known.
And he treasured it: he took care of it. His gift is profound, as is his faith, his belief in the creator, which is so profound. All of that and his discipline have made him the amazing artist that he is.
When I was a kid and I started playing the piano in Kingston, there were three things that stuck out to me. even when I was like 11,12 years old.
First, I saw Louis Armstrong. I saw him and met him backstage at his show. Then, a year later. Nat King Cole came to Jamaica. I went to the concert. He was my hero at that time. And then one day when I was about 15 years old the radio was on. Radio Jamaica, one little humble station that played all different kinds of music. I heard this music coming over the radio and I saw the light. Every note was a prayer, a note coming from a higher place. My path became clear to me because I heard "Poinciana" coming through that speaker played by Mr. Ahmad Jamal. He is beyond description. First of all, a piano technique that was transcendent. In the classical world he would've been appreciated for his prodigious piano technique. But his sense of rhythm is deeply pulsating. It's so gut-bucket. It's so swinging. It's so sophisticated.
I was 14 years old in 1958. That's about the same time Miles Davis discovered Ahmad Jamal. And that's about the time there was public criticism of this man by people who didn't hear the magic or realize the magic. They started spreading this ridiculous idea that he's just a cocktail piano player. Somebody wrote that. No! This man was carving out masterpieces with every piece he did. Every piece he did was a perfect piece of art. Mr. Jamal is beyond category, beyond description. What he does expresses the spiritual in us. The only other musician I can think of who's inspired that sense of wonderment was John Coltrane because he was also a spiritual man.
When I first came to New York, I said to myself in my own private way that I would just treasure it if I could meet this man. Well, I met him in around 1967 Not only did I meet him. but he gave me his welcoming friendship. I spent a lot of time around him, hearing him discuss life. It was not just about music, but about his way of living, which was so deeply amazing and inspiring. His faith and the way he operated was so respectful; had such integrity. I'd ever seen this before in the so-called jazz world.
Every time I was in his presence, he treated me in a warm and friendly way. I have that. Inexplicably, people will talk about the superficial stuff. They miss the point. With Ahmad, it was always much deeper than those people realized. He is from another planet. Let's put it that way.
I have a sense of kinship and understanding with him. Just like with him. I love the pianism coming from the great classical masters. It could be Rachmaninov or Edvard Grieg or Chopin. I heard that. And that's some of my palette when I play. And this man is the master. He brings that classical pianistic approach into his raw powerful rhythm.
He's talked so proudly about his hometown of Pittsburgh and the hero - from Pittsburgh — that he has that I also have is Erroll Garner.
Erroll Garner painted pictures when he was playing, he didn't just play notes. Ahmad Jamal is an orchestra by himself with those 88 notes. So was Erroll Garner. And another inspiration we share is Nat King Cole. So. Nat King Cole. Erroll Garner and yes, Art Tatum, who put his hand on Ahmad Jamal's shoulder when he was a teenager or even younger than that, because Tatum realized that he was going to be a great. Inspirationally. Erroll Garner. Nat Cole. Tatum. And inspirationally for Ahmad Jamal. It was those three and behind all of that, we received a powerful master; a man who can play two notes and send you to the moon.
I experienced the Miracle myself at 14 when I received the awareness of the magnificent gift when I heard his music coming through that small home radio speaker radio in Jamaica on that wonderful miraculous day in 1958.
Through Mr A.J., The Creator made me realize that there is a musical pathway to Heaven - I call it a musical moonbeam to Heaven, Yes, — something mystical and wonderful came to me that great day in 1958 - thanks to the miracle that is Mr A.J.”
Monty Alexander, Jazz pianist
As noted in an earlier feature about Cal Tjader: Catch The Groove - Live at the Penthouse 1963-1967, the forthcoming “Black Friday” - November 24, 2023 - is a day to celebrate new releases, especially those involving the resurgent interest in vinyl editions with CDs of these albums generally following a few weeks later.
Another in this series is "Ahmad Jamal - Live at The Penthouse 1966-68" [DDJD -006]. It is produced by Zev Feldman and his Deep Digs Music in cooperation with Elemental Music and is a sequel to a previously released double CD set as described in the following press release.
Since I’ve been the fortunate recipient of preview copies of new Jazz recordings by some of these accomplished Jazz legends to be released on the upcoming Record Store day, I thought it might be fun and helpful to share the information on the media releases which accompanied them to make you aware of what could be the cause of a lessening balance in your bank account come November 24th!
From Ann Braithwaite/Braithwaite & Katz Communications
PRODUCER ZEV FELDMAN'S IMPRINT, JAZZ DETECTIVE, LAUNCHES THE THIRD AND FINAL 2-LP SET OF PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED LIVE RECORDINGS BY AHMAD JAMAL
Following the superb initial two volumes. Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968, captures spectacular performances by the master pianist's trio at the Penthouse in Seattle. Also available as a 2-CD set and download.
LP Release Date: November 24th CD Release Date: December 1st
Package includes reflections by Ahmad Jamal himself, interviews with fellow pianists Les McCann, Emmet Cohen, Monty Alexander, and Joe Alterman, and essays by producer Zev Feldman and journalist Eugene Holley, Jr., among others. The extensive booklet features rare photos by Don Bronstein, Chuck Stewart, and more.
Producer and music sleuth Zev Feldman's label, Jazz Detective, a division of Deep Digs Music Group, releases the third and final volume of the Ahmad Jamal sets: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse (1966-1968), featuring previously unreleased performances by master pianist Ahmad Jamal.
The 2-LP set will be issued on 180-gram vinyl transferred from the original tapes and mastered by the legendary Bernie Grundman. The music will also be available as a 2-CD set and download. The package was produced by Feldman and supervised by Ahmad Jamal himself shortly before his passing away in April of 2023.
Taking its name from Feldman's handle "the Jazz Detective" and reflecting his determined work unearthing hitherto unheard, award-winning treasures, the Jazz Detective label is an imprint of Deep Digs Music Group, a partnership with Spain's Elemental Music, with which Feldman has enjoyed a long professional relationship.
Feldman says, "It was an enormous thrill for me to work with Mr. Jamal, whom I've been listening to my entire life. He was a true original and beyond category. I couldn't be more proud of these releases."
Volume 3 offers the last batch of dazzling performances recorded at the intimate Seattle club The Penthouse by local radio host and live broadcast engineer Jim Wilke. Other magnificent live sets from the venue produced by Feldman have been released by Resonance Records (Wynton Kelly and Wes Montgomery, and the Three Sounds) and Reel to Real Recordings (Cannonball Adderley, Harold Land and the duo of Johnny Griffin and Eddie Lockjaw Davis).
The package includes an extensive booklet with new reflections by
Jamal about his work; photographs by Don Bronstein, Chuck Stewart and others; and essays by Zev Feldman, Jim Wilke, journalist Eugene Holley, Jr., Charlie Puzzo, Jr. (son of late Penthouse owner Charlie Puzzo), and Marshall Chess of Chess/Argo/Cadet Records (the label that released Jamal's bestselling, career-making albums in the '50s). The 1966-68 volume includes new interviews with fellow pianists Les McCann, Emmet Cohen, Monty Alexander, and Joe Alterman.
On the Penthouse recordings Jamal is heard in his three-piece element, backed by bassist JAMIL NASSER and drummer FRANK GANT.
In 1958, the pianist became a household name — a rare feat for a jazz pianist — with a pair of live trio recordings that soared into the top reaches of the American record charts. Ahmad Jamal Trio at the Pershing: But Not For Me, cut live in the lounge of Chicago's Pershing Hotel, reached No.3 nationally in the year of its release; its successor Ahmad Jamal: Volume IV, captured at the Spotlight Club in Washington, D.C. climbed to No.11.
In his overview of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, Kennedy Center honoree, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, writer Holley says, "Pittsburgh-born Jamal has achieved jazz immortality in a myriad of ways: A child prodigy trained in European and American classical traditions who was professionally working at 14, Jamal developed a protean and profound pianism that ingeniously melded pianist Art Tatum's swing-at-the-speed-of-sound and his hometown hero Erroll Garner's tender and torrid touch with Franz Liszt's boundless keyboard technique and the azure French Impressionism of Ravel and Debussy."
Though Jamal recorded prolifically in a variety of settings — his last album Ballades was a studio session recorded in 2016 which comprises solo and duo piano-bass recordings — he has always stated his preference for a live environment.
"There's no comparison between performing live and performing in a studio,” he says in the new Emerald City Nights collections. "That's art — performing remotely, not in the studio. It's all live, but remotely from the studio is a science and an art. If you can capture that, as some of us have, you always come up with spectacular things, in my opinion. Being in a studio has its constraints; has its difficulties. When you're performing remotely, away from the studio, it's a different thing altogether. All you need is a good engineer."
The many unique facets of Jamal's genius are lauded by other players in admiring testimony on this new release:
"I don't know of any musician who doesn't like Ahmad Jamal. Who else can you say that about? There's no other person who does what he does. It's his own music. That is, to me, the ultimate." LES McCANN
"The spirit of the way Ahmad approaches performing music inspired me to let music happen in whatever way it might, be it a rent party, or a hang, or a community event. It's different from the typical setting of the performer on stage and the audience listening. Ahmad's music works in any setting. It works in a club. It works in a speakeasy, in a hang. His concept can foster so many different types of human experience over, through, around and engaged-with. I model myself after that." EMMET COHEN
''Ahmad Jamal is a miracle! He has the most powerful gift of anybody I have ever seen or known. And he treasured it; he took care of it. His gift is profound, as is his faith, his belief in the creator, which is so profound. All of that and his discipline have made him the amazing artist that he is." MONTY ALEXANDER
"Dr. Jamal's music has always resonated deeply and has had a deep and important impact on my life. To me, what he gets out of the piano is just as much magic as it is music. After all, who else can make you hear the notes he's not playing?" JOE ALTERMAN