Miles Davis was, famously, a fan of the pianist Ahmad Jamal, inviting his own pianists – such as Red Garland and Bill Evans – to replicate Jamal’s spacious, hesitant, quietly modernist style.
Now aged 87, Jamal is still on top form, his terse, space-filled improvisations punctuated by the trance-like ostinato bass lines of James Cammack and the clattering polyrhythms of drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena.
This album features three very different versions of Jamal’s title track: the first a modal instrumental punctuated by meditative arpeggios; the second featuring declamatory poetry by rapper Abd Al Malik; the third a dazzling, coruscating ballad featuring singer Mina Agossi.
Elsewhere, there’s plenty of puckish wit: a jerky, Afro Cuban version of Autumn Leaves is interspersed with glancing references to other standards (including chunks of Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments), while the groove-based Baalbeck sounds like an acoustic take on the Temptations’ Papa Was a Rolling Stone. At once frisky, funny and funky as hell.
4 Stars - Guardian UK reviewed by John Lewis
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