The German audiophile label Speakers Corner had just reissued, on LP–in glorious mono too–a classic album, The Piano Scene of Ahmad Jamal. This LP was originally issued by Epic Records in 1959. There may have been a stereo version, but the original master tape is lost–or worse, it may have been reprocessed for stereo which is the kiss of death for any recording. On the contrary, the original mono recorded sound is impeccable, the pressing is first rate which is typical for Speakers Corner reissues. With a Speakers Corner reissue, you do not get surface noise (no Rice Krispies of snap, crackle, pop). Click here to read a past post describing the high quality and craft of a Speakers Corner reissue.
Yet, the best element about this reissue is Ahmad Jamal‘s 1959 performance–it’s brilliant.
The liner notes by Nat Hentoff are delightfully old-school and a little dated. He writes on Jamal’s adoption of Mohammedanism and how jazz fans didn’t understand it. As far as I know, this was just one of two recording sessions he did for the Columbia Records subsidiary.
No matter how far you go back in Jamal’s long career, he always was at the top of his game. Some cynics regarded him as a cocktail pianist, probably because his versions of songs tended to be short and concise. Miles Davis was always a fan, praising Jamal for his use of space and his brilliant piano phrasing.
I’ve always loved his work. I wish the Cadet LPs could be reissued. I have all of them, some of them purchased as used LPs at Amoeba Music (Los Angeles’ incredible brick and mortar record store). Mosaic Records, under the watchful eye and ears of Michael Cuscuna, has issued the Argo sides but the excellent Cadet recordings which followed have yet to see the light of day on CD. When I was in Tokyo ten years ago, I went to the Tower and HMV Stores hoping I might find Japanese reissues. Alas, I did not.
Here is a wonderful video of Jamal I’ve shared in a past post but it was filmed in 1959: the same year as the new Speakers Corner reissue. He’s playing the standard, “Darn that Dream” in front of a celebrity crowd. Ben Webster, Jo Jones, Nat Hentoff are among the assembled listeners. This was from (I believe) a CBS TV show.