Reviews by J Hunter
Welcome to the Greater Nippertown jazz scene’s version of the Bermuda Triangle: That amazon nine-day stretch that gives us the Port of Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival, Lake George Jazz Weekend and the start of another season for A Place For Jazz… which means, of course, that we need some music to talk about between sets:
Not all 80-plus guys mumble incoherently to empty chairs. Some, like 81-year old piano icon Ahmad Jamal, take that chair and smash it over the heads of any stereotypes that stand in their way. Jamal still paints beautiful, pastoral pictures on his original “I Remember Italy” and Johnny Mercer’s “Laura”, but he also hits his lines on the reboot of “Autumn Rain” with a haymaker punch that’ll rock you back, and his reboot of the title track to his latest release Blue Moon takes one of the Great American Songbook’s more treacly woe-is-me tunes and flips it soundly on its head. Jamal’s muscular, veteran back-up band gives no quarter, either: Reginald Veal prefaces Jamal’s pulsing attack on “Morning Mist” with an in-the-clear bass solo that will give your sub-woofers some extra work; drummer Herlin Riley’s backbeat on “This Is the Life” lets Jamal dance the way he wants to – floating lightly on some sections, stomping hard on others – while Manolo Badrena’s percussion adds driving, industrial urgency to Bronislau Kaper’s “Invitation” and the Dizzy classic “Woody’n You.” Some things may get meaner as they get older, but when it comes to Ahmad Jamal, they also get better – way better!