It’s pretty rare that I’ll be listening to mostly newly recorded music for any significant stretch, but the three records here all grabbed my interest on my last trip to the store.
Ahmad Jamal never seems to quite get the credit he deserves. Sure, Stanley Crouch thinks he’s second in importance only to Bird, but DownBeat hasn’t seen fit to include him in their Hall of Fame yet. Maybe because he simply churns out one quality record after another, people kind of forget he’s there. Hopefully, Blue Moon can change some of that thinking.
A departure from his usual trio with bassist James Cammack and drummer Idris Muhammad, this record finds him leading a quartet of bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and the great percussionist Manolo Badrena. The new line-up is an interesting switching of strengths. With Cammack and Muhammad, the bass seems to be the propulsive force. In the new quartet, it is definitely the percussionists dictating the feel. Veal expertly navigates between Jamal’s block chords and Riley and Badrena’s tangled rhythms. The result is a more interesting foundation for Jamal to play over, and his playing is solid as ever.
I’ve made no secret my love of all things New Orleans, and brass bands are a big part of that. Some of the most exhilarating shows I’ve been to were Soul Rebels late night at Le Bon Temps. However, studio albums from brass bands almost always fall short of capturing the live experience, and this is no exception. The closest they come to capturing that euphoric live feeling is on the track below, “I’m So Confused”, with a guest spot by Galactic’s Ben Ellman on baritone sax. I look forward to hearing this one live when they roll into L.A. later this month.
I’m a big fan of Medeski, Martin & Wood, but sometimes their extended jamming can get a little aimless, especially live. This set is much more focused and succinct than much of their work, and I think this owes to the presence of guitarist John Scofield. Most of the songs are pulled from their two albums together, Scofield’s A Go Go and Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood’s Out Louder . The lone exception is a take on “Amazing Grace”, which sounds like it could have been an outtake from Scofield’s Piety Street record. My favorite track is “Little Walter Rides Again”, which nicely straddles the line between Scofield’s bluesy funk and MMW’s greasier jams.