Ahmad Jamal: Dance to the Lady


Dance To The Lady


Ahmad Jamal (piano)


Chicago Revisited: Live at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase (Telarc 83327)

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Ahmad Jamal (piano), John Heard (bass),

Yoron Israel (drums)


Composed by John Handy


Recorded: Chicago, November 13-14, 1992


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This rendering starts with just piano and drums, which Ahmad doesn’t do often, even live, but when he does, it really explodes. Now, this piece is a very tender piece, not really a ballad, but more or less a bright waltz. Yoron Israel plays lightly behind him, real loose and kind of open. One thing that stands out is that when Ahmad Jamal plays waltz time, he almost keeps the feeling of the old-style waltz. In a lot of ways, he’s a traditionalist. You don’t hear him play things in 3/4 like, say, Cannonball Adderley, with the real heavy walking basslines, almost like a gospel blues thing. That wasn’t really Ahmad’s thing. His approach to 3/4 is almost childlike. His sound and conception is distinctively African-American in terms of not containing an overabundance of European influence, like when you listen to Bill Evans or George Russell or someone like that.

Ahmad Jamal told me that for a disciplinarian, there are no rewards, only consequences. People like Ahmad, Herbie Nichols, Horace Silver and John Lewis were very straight-laced guys, who didn’t get caught up in the whole clichéd jazz scene of succumbing to negative influences. They were quirky, but not in the negative sense. Their minds were always clear, so they were consistent in what they wrote and in their recorded and performance output. This also took their music outside of categories. You could call Horace Silver a hard-bop musician, but only in the sense that it’s a style that he helped to define. You could call John Lewis a bebop jazz pianist, but it wouldn’t be accurate to limit him to one style.

On “Dance for The Lady,” I’m blown away by how one person can simultaneously have so much power and so much sensitivity. McCoy Tyner also has that. McCoy and Ahmad are very similar piano players, and I would like to believe that during the mid-1960s, when McCoy Tyner’s thing was really beginning to unfold with the John Coltrane Quartet, it had a tremendous impact on Ahmad. I don’t think that’s cheeky or disrespectful to say, even though Ahmad Jamal is McCoy’s senior. What that says is that Ahmad Jamal is open to what’s in the air; that he knows what’s going on at all times. He recorded Chick Corea’s “Tones For Joan’s Bones.” He recorded Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance.” He recorded a Monty Alexander piece, “You Can See.” He’s done Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusher Man” or “Theme From M.A.S.H.” So Ahmad Jamal not only honors the masters, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Nat Cole, but also respects the newer generation, and that’s what has allowed him to stay so fresh.

Reviewer: Eric Reed


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