Don’t bother trying to decide which one to order, just purchase both as these are essential listening.

Jazz Detective DDJD-004 / DDJD-005

1963-1964 (Vol 1): Ahamd Jamal (piano on all tracks) with

Richard Evans (bass); Chuck Lampkin (drums) – Recorded June 20, 1963

Jamil Nasser (bass); Chuck Lampkin (drums) – March 26 & April 2, 1964

1965-1966 (Vol 2); Ahamd Jamal (piano on all tracks) with

Jamil Nasser (bass); Chuck Lampkin (drums) – Recorded March 18 7 25, 1965

Jamil Nasser (bass); Vernal Fournier (drums) – Recorded October 28, 1965

Jamil Nasser (bass); Frank Gant (drums) – Recorded September 22, 1966

Two double albums of previously unreleased performances by the Ahamad Jamal Trio recorded live at the Penthouse in Seattle. What more could any Jamal fan ask for, or indeed anyone interested the piano jazz format?

The answer to that is possibly time. Four CDs take time to listen to and to give the appropriate attention that the music deserves, however for those prepared to make that commitment the rewards are there to be discovered in abundance.

The sound of these recordings are well balanced with everything registered cleanly. One then gets the sense of just how Jamal’s music works, giving each member of the trio space to contribute and impact the music. Even at faster tempos nothing feels hurried, and of course the ballads are a delight.

For those rushing to make a comparison with the live recordings ‘At The Pershing – But Not For Me’, made a few years earlier don’t. These classic tracks, with the exception of ‘Poinciana’ at just over eight minutes are all neatly contained and short readings of the compositions. On these albums we are treated to lengthy interpretations that warrant detailed investigation by the trio.

Bassist Richard Evans is featured only on the 1963 tracks on which he provides able support on the opening ‘Johnny One Note’ and a superb delve into Johnny Hodges’s ‘Squatty Roo’ that Jamal clearly revels in. For the remainder of the selections from 1964 he is replaced by Jamil Nasser whose superb time and tone serve Jamal well.

Capable of a driving pulse, Nasser’s playing seems to guide the trio with a firmer hand on the tiller, and drummer Lampkin sounds more relaxed with Nasser on bass duties.

This is immediately felt on Latin tinged ‘Bogota’ that ironically is written by the departed bassist Evans, and a lovely ‘Lollipops and Roses’, while Jamal’s ‘Minor Moods’ is a tour de force of catchy melodies and riffs, along with a healthy case of pure invention. Space is left for all, and no one seems to be in a hurry to fill it. Great trio jazz!

The 165-66 performances from Vol 2 retain the services of bassist Jamil Nasser, who for my money is Jamal’s best bass player after Israel Crosby (Crosby is the bassist on the ‘Pershing’ dates who passed away in 1962), and while Jamal uses three different drummers in the period covered here Nasser ensures some continuity and his relationship with the pianist is essential to the success of the music.

The album opens with an extended workout on ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was’ with superb solo contributions from all and wonderful group interplay, and this also keenly felt on an excellent ‘Feeling Good’.

These extended tracks of ten minutes plus are fascinating to hear as Jamal uses his range of cues for the trio as if spontaneously arranging in real time. His own composition ‘Concern’ is a prime example with Nasser and drummer Vernel Fournier arguably the pick of the bass/drum’s units on the two albums.

Two more albums for the collection, not just for Jamal enthusiasts, but anyone interested in the evolution of the jazz piano trio. Don’t bother trying to decide which one to order, just purchase both as these are essential listening.

Reviewed by Nick Lea