Piano stylist supreme Ahmad Jamal
is the star of the first releases by the new Jazz Detective label. A pair of complementary double-CD sets, Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1963-1964
and Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1965-1966
document parts of his sets that were broadcast and recorded by the club. Over the past few years, the Penthouse tape collection has yielded a number of impressive releases, including such stars as Johnny Griffin & Eddie Lockjaw Davis in 1962, Cannonball Adderley in 1966 and 1967, Bill Evans in 1966 and Wynton Kelly with Wes Montgomery in 1966. Zev Feldman has been instrumental in bringing this material, and a lot more, out of the vaults and into the world. This new joint venture with Spain’s Elemental Music label takes its name from his nickname of the Jazz Detective. For this project, he consulted the 92-year old Jamal. The Ahmad Jamal trio stunned the music world with the massive success of the 1958 Argo album Live At The Pershing: But Not For Me
. By 1994, this piano trio date had sold over a million copies. Jamal and his groups were quite popular at Seattle’s Penthouse nightspot, and this pair of releases presents music from seven different broadcasts from 1963-1965. (There’s another compilation of Jamal at The Penthouse in preparation.) Each set gets the usual Feldman treatment. The booklets each include period photos, an introduction by the producer, remarks by Jamal extracted from recent interviews, brief notes by Jim Wilke, the on-air host for KING-FM, and Charlie Puzzo, Jr., son of the club owner, and charming recollections by Marshall Chess of Chess Records. Argo was Chess Records’ jazz imprint, and Live At The Pershing
was, he says “a viral hit” for the company when a 16-year old Marshall Chess first met Jamal. Eugene Holley, Jr. contributes liner notes for each volume, discussing both the songs and the backgrounds of the bassists (Richard Evans and Jamil Nasser) and drummers (Chuck Lampkin, Vernel Fournier, and Frank Gant). Finally, a batch of pianists weigh in on Jamal’s powerful influence. We hear from Jon Batiste, Kenny Barron, and Aaron Diehl in the 1963-1964 booklet. The 1965-1966 compilation features reminiscences by the late Ramsey Lewis and Hiromi Uehara. As both Uehara and Barron note, active participation in the music by the bass and drums make the band sound, in Uehara’s words, “like one cohesive unit.” Spending some time with these discs provides an opportunity to listen to how the music is ever so slightly altered with different bandmates. But the best thing about these broadcasts is the sheer pleasure of Jamal’s magnificent improvisations on (mostly) popular songs, and his unfailingly à propos rhythmic shadings. Absolutely recommended. I can’t wait to hear what else Jazz Detective has in store for the future. On a personal note, this former tape archivist really appreciates the photographs of tape boxes!
Jazz Detective DJDD-004; Disc 1 (34:23) Ahmad Jamal (p) Richard Evans (b) Chuck Lampkin (d); Seattle, WA [all tracks], June 20, 1963; Johnny One Note/ Minor Adjustments/ All Of You/ Squatty Roo. Disc 2 (56:27) Ahmad Jamal (p) Jamil Nasser (b) Chuck Lampkin (d); March 26, 1964; Bogota/ Lollipops & Roses/ Tangerine. Same trio; April 2, 1964; Keep On Keeping On/ Minor Moods/ But Not For Me.
Jazz Detective DJDD-005; Disc 1 (40:29) Ahmad Jamal (p) Jamil Nasser (b) Chuck Lampkin (d); March 18, 1965; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was/ Who Can I Turn To?. Same trio; March 25, 1965; My First Love Song/ Feeling Good. Disc 2 (37:42): Ahmad Jamal (p) Jamil Nasser (b) Vernel Fournier (d); October 28, 1965; Concern/ Like Someone In Love. Ahmad Jamal (p) Jamil Nasser (b) Frank Gant (d); September 22, 1966; Invitation/ Poinciana/ Whisper Not. www.deepdigsmusic.com