Hunting vintage jazz vinyl records in the Nutmeg State
Ahmad Jamal, piano
with Ray Crawford (g) and Israel Crosby (b)
Argo deep groove black label. My small amount of research has determined that Argo’s matrix codes and label colors come in many varieties and may have more to do with what plant the records were pressed at, and give little information regarding when they were actually pressed.
Scored at Connecticut’s own Redscroll Records, a shop that specializes more in underground music, there’s often a jazz find lurking somewhere in this shop. This particular record cost me less than $5…similarly found a mono original of Sinatra meets Basie (An Musical First, on Reprise) for about the same price. This Argo pops quite a bit – I only have a few Argos but none of them are really spotless nor have they really handled the test of time well…starting to wonder if thats the norm. Anyway, while some may be a little cold on Jamal’s lounge-y style, it’s widely known that his use of space and phrasing greatly influenced Miles Davis (or, at the least, he was quite the fan of his playing). Various influences of Jamal can be heard outside of the trumpeter’s actual playing – tune choices with the first great quintet, the block-chord style that, while it was a normal part of his arsenal, Red Garland features more prominently on those Miles quintet sides for Prestige, etc.
Most telling of all, in my mind, are the two tunes posted here. Not only were they used (the “medley” specified as “I Don’t Want to Be Kissed (By Anyone but You)”) on Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957) but many may not realize that Gil Evans basically used Jamal’s version somewhat verbatim for the 19-piece band. This was something I was unaware of until recently. Clearly Evans’s voicings are a HUGE part of why Miles Ahead is such a spectacular success, but it is definitelyVERY cool to hear just how much of a parallel the Davis-Evans team drew to these versions. I’m always inspired to hear inspiring musicians inspired by each other, if you follow.
The playing throughout the LP is nice enough, though there are some drowsier moments on tunes like “A Foggy Day.” That conga-effect with the guitar can get a little old at times, too, and tends to drive my wife crazy. Jamal made more of a splash a few years later when he replaced the guitar with drums, making for a more conventional piano trio. The drums are clearly absent but not necessarily pertinent in this particular chamber style. This is an LP that helps you appreciate just how much chops a musician can have without all the bravado and fireworks – hardly cerebral, but very creative, for sure.