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JSngry

Ahmad Jamal, Vindicated

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One of the eternal truths in music is that critics are never as important as the music and its creators ...

Touche.

Well, no. I mean, aren't most of us on this Board effectively critics? At least, as Larry defines the term? Don't we talk about the music, discuss what we think is pretty good and pretty bad, what's been well done, badly done?

gregmo

That was my point; almost all of us here do it pretty naturally. Or in the immortal words of Mel Brooks' rock star Fabiola, "We're all singing, I just have the mouth."

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I'm not familiar with Jamal's recent work but am I correct in my impression that he no longer plays in the style that was so popular?

I think that one of the things Davis doesn't take into consideration is that there are fashions in criticism (as with anything else). In the hey day of Jamal's popularity you couldn't make much of a name for yourself by liking him. Only Miles would have dared do that-- and he may have been trying, as he often was, to be contrary. (Probably not-- he seems to have genuinely admired Jamal and was certainly influenced by him). Anyone that popular is bound to be dismissed by those of us wanting to seem hip. Also you just heard too much of it at the time. This even happened to Art Blakey. I remember writing a review of a performance of the Miles Davis 2nd great quintet and referring to Wayne Shorter as having "recently escaped the confines of the Jazz Messengers". I probably saw Blakey a half dozen times over five years and got tired of hearing "Moanin'".

In the early '60s this seems to have been the fate of any jazz musician who became too popular to be dissed by critics. The one exception of course being Miles.

(This still goes on: Moms recently bad mouthed Robert Johnson mainly because he was the only bluesman most people know of. The "King of the Delta Blues" stuff may be over-hyped but Johnson is still pretty fucking good.)

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I don't see how you listen to a Jamal group through the course of a piece and hear the piano as the only focal point.

You don't, or at least I don't - it's the trio-ness of it that makes it, well, it. Same as Ramsey Lewis - great in that trio, much less so apart from it. And not because the other two, separately or togehter, were better/worse (and I certainly won't asign % or anything silly like that). It's the sum, not the parts. Group music like this is a refreshing change from endless jams. And you can't seperate the good/high art from the crowd grabbing gestures either - it was all part of a whole and the whole point was/is to get regular people to hear music they thought they knew (standards when they were standard, hits of the day, whatever) in new ways. to hear things you never knew you never knew, to paraphrase Pocahantus (sorry my daughter's sitting next to me and she loves Pokey).

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Well, the "manipulative applause-begging gestures" don't bother me in the least. On the contrary, I find the pop music-type appeal of Jamal's classic work to be quite refreshing.

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Uh, duh...maybe the "gestures" are actually structural devices and maybe Jamal's trios are primarily about group architecture instead of piano solos, huh, what, ya' THINK?

That Martin Williams was a prissy bitch at times, I must say, and sometimes he had ears to match.

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medgar--

I believe Moms was saying that RJ is ** only ** an excellent guitarist & singer, i.e. musical performer. That's no small accomplishment but the "King" jive, let alone the asinine myth making and lyrical exegeses, is historically untenable.

A similar example can be made of fucking Gram Parsons, a tolerable folkie in his narrow sweet spot, way over his head to insufferable elsewhere, esp. as country western had more great jazz-influenced singers than did jazz itself. Meanwhile, how much of Gram's schtick was swiped wholesale from Bobby Bare and how many 'rock' or 'folk rock' knuckleheads even think to mention it? Barry Gibb >>>>>>>>>>> Gram Parsons all day every day too, btw (if you wanna folk).

As for Ahmad, he and Vernell Fournier together ASTOUND, and I say that knowing some people I otherwise loathe agree.

JSngry btw is 100% correct. Inventive & reinventive group architecture >>>>>>> mere grooving, just so ya'll know Moms is consistent.

Some might call it proto-harmolodics; some might call Dakota the Dancing Bear for a second opinion.

White Ties Do Make It

(This still goes on: Moms recently bad mouthed Robert Johnson mainly because he was the only bluesman most people know of. The "King of the Delta Blues" stuff may be over-hyped but Johnson is still pretty fucking good.)

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Perhaps with the most important criticism there’s a risk involved - a reputation is at stake because it isn’t always just a question of subjective taste, but also of recognising the winds of change at those special moments... so a history of cubism or fauvism isn’t complete without either Louis Vauxcelles who panned them (and accidently coined their names), or Apollinaire who recognised, and foresaw instinctively their importance.

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Inventive & reinventive group architecture >>>>>>> mere grooving,

Don't know how down I can get with the >>>>>>> mere part of that equation, but there is something to be said for recognizing a fundamental difference of intent, namely that it behoove one to do so if one wishes to make an intelligent/informed evaluation.

As for Ahmad, he and Vernell Fournier together ASTOUND

Let's not forget to triangulate that, since it is a trio...Jamal's music is damn near always built from the bass up (and people who don't remember/know Mile's comment ca. 72 about building music from the bass up might want to refresh/familiarize.

None of which is to stake a claim for immunity from prosecution for Mr. Jamal. Not everything has been (note)worthy. But there is plenty there that is, and looking for it within the usual paradigm of "piano soloing" is neither where you will find it nor where it is meant to be placed.

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Uh, duh...maybe the "gestures" are actually structural devices and maybe Jamal's trios are primarily about group architecture instead of piano solos, huh, what, ya' THINK?

That Martin Williams was a prissy bitch at times, I must say, and sometimes he had ears to match.

Maybe they're both "gestures" AND structural devices, and Martin was well aware of that but found that their significance as "gestures" outweighed their significance as structural devices. Hey, Shearing's Quintet was about "group architecture" too. I know -- but labeling in itself doesn't get us that far.

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In what I think of as the territory in which Jamal was working (as outlined by Jim and others above), I find the recordings of Red Garland's favorite working trio (with Doug Watkins and Specs Wright) to be a good deal more interesting. I particularly recommend Garland's hallucinatory version of "Mr. Wonderful." But then I'm sure that Martin Williams wouldn't have liked that one either.

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Also, while the influence of the classic Jamal trio's group architecture (ah -- the open spaces!) was undeniable, I think that a lot of the music he undeniably influenced turned out to be more interesting than the source was. One album in particular sticks in my mind -- Bobby Timmons' lovely "The Soul Man" (with Shorter, R. Carter, and J. Cobb) from 1965-6.

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not to mention all of Miles' work -

and I will add, that I've heard some of Jamal's early playing - Okeh records, maybe - and he was interesting but unformed, to my ears - and I will say (and I agree with that prissy bitch Martin Williams, who really was a good guy but also a pain) that ultimately, by finding a form to work in before really developing his deeper jazz self, Jamal sacrficed depth to stylistic utility.

and that's the way I feel.

and, like with Brubeck, I really TRIED to like Jamal. Same thing with Dexter.

and I'm with Larry on Red Garland, who at what may have been his last engagement (he did the Vanguard not long before he disappeared again and died) was simply amazing.

Edited by AllenLowe

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FACT: Red Garland is thee single greatest straight-ahead(-ish) non-hyper-virtuosic pianist in jazz history. Drastically underrated artist, despite the exposure with Miles and "pleasant" popular reputation.

FACT: Jaki Byard is thee single greatest trans-historical hyper-virtuosic pianist in jazz history who, post-Monk and Jamal, reinvented group architecture +++. The "shame"-- or public disappointment, at least-- of his career is the relative scarcity of orchestral realizations of these concepts.

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thank you for mentioning Jaki, who was one of my favorite people both personally and musically.

great man to talk to - always came up with something interesting.

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Maybe they're both "gestures" AND structural devices, and Martin was well aware of that but found that their significance as "gestures" outweighed their significance as structural devices. Hey, Shearing's Quintet was about "group architecture" too. I know -- but labeling in itself doesn't get us that far.

Shearing's "group architecture" was basically about changing the color of the paint on the walls. Jamal's was about changing where those walls were, at what angle they stood, and whether they actually needed to be walls all the time, or whether they could sometimes be doors. Or floors. Or ceilings. Or free-floating structures.

The fuller impact of Jamal's realizations can be felt, not in jazz, but in various forms of "advanced" contemporary dance music, where seemingly "static" elements morph into new signifiers of new time, space, and color while at the same time staying the same.

And wtf is a "deeper jazz self"? Sounds like Wynton talk to me....

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I'm not familiar with Jamal's recent work but am I correct in my impression that he no longer plays in the style that was so popular?

Same concepts only greatly expanded, different vocabulary. The trio with Jamil Nasser & Frank Gant got pretty damn "abstract". Again, it ain't all "great", but there's more than enough "food for thought" there to keep you busy for a good while.

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with Jamil Nasser & Frank Gant got pretty damn "abstract".

Addition noted with gratitude. Jamil Nasser was a giant, ask and I don't know that you shall receive BUT...

Somewhere there is a long interview with Jamil talking about his friend and collaborator Oscar Dennard that everyone should hear-- dialogue and music-- seven or eight times at least.

Dig The Memphis Mafia

Edited by MomsMobley

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Also, while the influence of the classic Jamal trio's group architecture (ah -- the open spaces!) was undeniable, I think that a lot of the music he undeniably influenced turned out to be more interesting than the source was. One album in particular sticks in my mind -- Bobby Timmons' lovely "The Soul Man" (with Shorter, R. Carter, and J. Cobb) from 1965-6.

I can't even remotely perceive the influence of Jamal on this record. But that's just me.

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Also, while the influence of the classic Jamal trio's group architecture (ah -- the open spaces!) was undeniable, I think that a lot of the music he undeniably influenced turned out to be more interesting than the source was. One album in particular sticks in my mind -- Bobby Timmons' lovely "The Soul Man" (with Shorter, R. Carter, and J. Cobb) from 1965-6.

I can't even remotely perceive the influence of Jamal on this record. But that's just me.

I was going on memory and should listen again, but anyway it's a lovely record.

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We agree on that!

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with Jamil Nasser & Frank Gant got pretty damn "abstract".

Addition noted with gratitude. Jamil Nasser was a giant, ask and I don't know that you shall receive BUT...

Somewhere there is a long interview with Jamil talking about his friend and collaborator Oscar Dennard that everyone should hear-- dialogue and music-- seven or eight times at least.

Dig The Memphis Mafia

I liked him plenty when he was George Joyner, but the way he had his amp hooked up on most of the things I've heard after he changed his name to Jamil Nasser kind of drove me crazy -- almost all snarl and twang, not much string and note. BTW, speaking of Joyner in what to me was his hey-day, how about the late George Tucker?

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Have you heard that album Extensions from 1965? Sounds like he - uh, sorry Jim, *they*, the WHOLE trio - are auditioning for Bitches Brew.

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I think Jamil (who died last year) just got tired of fighting loud rhythm sections. When he played duos with Al Haig he was a lot more toned down.

very insightful guy, had hilarious stories of being on the road with Blakey (in a near all-junkie band, he watched as Art fleeced everyone with overpriced 'road' drugs that he had actually bought in NYC) - also the source of my belief (from what he told me, and we've argued this extensively before here) that Rollins went into a bit of an ego-tailspin when Coltrane became the dominant tenor player.

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with Jamil Nasser & Frank Gant got pretty damn "abstract".

Addition noted with gratitude. Jamil Nasser was a giant, ask and I don't know that you shall receive BUT...

Somewhere there is a long interview with Jamil talking about his friend and collaborator Oscar Dennard that everyone should hear-- dialogue and music-- seven or eight times at least.

Dig The Memphis Mafia

The good lady has it right mentioning Oscar Dennard... there was a cat who could really play... no AJ he!

Q

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