Ear Candy

Got myself a couple treats after coming home. First is the Ahmad Jamal box set on Mosaic, nine discs. It’s just inalienably smile-inducing. Even if you have some of the records, there’s so much that’s new here. But maybe most of all to hear The Pershing and related studio dates back to back, one tune after another, one brilliant arrangement following another. The perfect band. Every move crafted effortlessly. Israel Crosby and Vernel Fournier. All the standards, known and unknown, along with a handful of great originals. There’s a quintet date I’d never heard with Joe Kennedy on violin and Ray Crawford on guitar. It has the same timeless feeling as the trio tracks.

Kenny Washington produced the set and presents a great interview with Mr. Jamal for the notes. There are some real gems, for instance KW asks how AJ came up with his concept of less-is-more:

AJ: There’s a discipline in music. There’s an amount of showiness and showing off in front of musicians, which is always a mistake. So I kind of backed off sometimes and I think it’s part of the discipline that I’ve enjoyed through the years… Some people call it space, but I call it discipline. I’ve always been a person that would like to follow some of the rules. I’ve broken a lot of the rules, but I think that everyone should follow at least some of them. You can’t break all the rules. And I think that not overplaying is a rule we should abide by sometimes.

This music makes me so happy. Just wanted to share it and I hope everyone gets a chance to hear this release, or at least pull out some Jamal for a minute. Every new arrangement of a familiar standard I hear from the Ahmad Jamal Trio is cause for celebration. And of course Mr. Jamal is still out there playing and I encourage you to go hear him if you have the chance.

Mosaic (and no, I’m not shilling for them. It’s just ’cause they have the candy.) just released a John Carter / Bobby Bradford three disc set from the late 60s and early 70s. Followers of the Festival of New Trumpet Music got to hear Bobby in NYC last year with David Murray, Baikida Carroll, Mark Dresser, Andrew Cyrille, Benny Powell, and Marty Ehrlich. Bobby is going strong and we hope to have him back in NYC in 2011.

This new box set doesn’t catch the beginning of Carter’s or Bradford’s career, but it represents a real turning point for them and for the scene. This was a cohesive partnership that took ideas about free improvisation that were in the air and partnered them with a deep and powerful formal sensitivity. Sticks and Stones is now a classic Carter composition that shows off his incredible expressiveness and facility on the clarinet. Having played the tune (with Francois Houle) I can attest to the difficulties. It sounds so fluid here. There’s also an unreleased duo session that alone is worth the price of admission. Joyful sounds that are also a snapshot of a particular time and place.

Also have taken this moment to go out and buy a bunch of records by my contemporaries. Lots of great music being made. I just got the box set of my own latest release in the mail, as well. I hope you all are enjoying it, or at least checking it out here at our store. What new gems are you all hearing out there?