Ahmad Jamal: Wave (1985)




Ahmad Jamal (piano)


Digital Works (WEA/Atlantic (G)781258)

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Ahmad Jamal (piano), Herlin Riley (drums),

Larry Ball (electric bass), Iraj Lashkary (percussion)


Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim


Recorded: Dallas, Texas, August 1985


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Ahmad Jamal understood popular music, he understood commercialism, but, to me, he didn’t compromise. All of his artistic and musical decisions were personal and deliberate choices. There were some similarities between his work during this period and the so-called “smooth jazz” or “instrumental R&B,” or whatever you want to call it. But even though it was in a similar instrumental setting, what Ahmad Jamal was doing was too intense and complex to be called “smooth jazz.”

On “Wave” he revives the same basic arrangement from his version on The Awakening [Impulse!] in 1970. He plays the bassline, then breaks it up with this completely divergent rhythmic tangent, comes back to the line, and then sets up the song. There’s that element of surprise. A lot of young musicians today compose songs with a little piano-bass ostinato line to start off, which usually winds up being the most interesting part of the song. Most of them don’t know it, but they’re following Ahmad Jamal’s popularization of that device. He will stay on the vamp of a song for 10 minutes, and then play the actual song itself very briefly. For him, the form doesn’t make a difference. He might play an “A” section 20 times before going to the bridge, but you didn’t get tired of it. Then once he got to the bridge it was this huge release. His ability to spontaneously orchestrate is absolutely incredible. His genius has no limits.

Reviewer: Eric Reed

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