Ahmad Jamal’s presence was a part of Hip-Hop’s birth. The infamous single entitled The World Is Yours From Nas’ Illmatic album sampled Jamal’s composition entitled I Love Music.
Regardless of the numerous samples derived from his music, the name Ahmad Jamal reiterates the term ‘legendary’ to the catalog of Jazz musicians. Jamal is repeatedly quoted as one of the venerable Jazz martyrs, ranking up there with Miles Davis and other musicians from the Blue Note Records label.
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Jamal’s occupation was a composer, but in the core of his spirit, he is a pianist. Through his mastery of the piano, he managed to conduct one of the most well-versed and immaculate pieces of music in the genre. There is a sense of leadership that his hands take the form of when the keys reign as the upstage focus, in front of his supporting instruments.
Similar to Coltrane’s saxophone, Jamal’s keys allow the supporting ensemble to follow the footprints. The bass and cymbals follow through perfectly and warp around the keys with untethered accordance.
Through the support of his ensemble, we also have Double Bassist Israel Crosby, Guitarist Ray Crawford, and also contributing to The Awakening, Brass Musician and Bassist Jamil Nasser.
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These leading figures, under the direction of Jamal’s piano, devised an important compilation piece that plastered its title as one of Jamal’s essential albums in his catalog.
The album is comprised of seven compositions. The album substitutes the sheer amount of compositions for seven prolonged, rehearsed and carefully arranged creations.
The compositions are entitled, in order, The Awakening, I Love Music, Patterns, Dolphin Dance, You’re My Everything, Stolen Moments, and Wave. Without going over every track, I wanted to shortly look into the pieces that resonated with me the most, You’re My Everything, Dolphin Dance, and I Love Music.
Dolphin Dance allows each of the instruments to start off the composition, then allows Jamal’s keys and Crosby’s bass to lead the way. This is by no way a free-form play or a bombastic piece.
Each of the instrumentalists shines in their own harmonized light, dancing around each other’s tempo with ease and grace. The cymbals and drums skip up an down, allowing the staccato form of Jamal’s chords and Crosby’s bass to ride along.
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You’re My Everything is my personal favorite composition from this album. The chords that promenade along the other instruments here exude so much shining light. Jamal’s keys here are bountifully soft, slipping and swerving at alternating speeds throughout the composition. For the four minutes and forty-five seconds, you’re just hearing the Trio blissfully work off of Jamal’s thoughtful direction.
The composition I Love Music may be one of the more recognizable compositions on the album. One that many students of music dissertate to their last breath, attempting to understand Jamal’s formal thought process behind the pattern of his solo performance.
For around the first three minutes and fifty seconds, Jamal’s improvisation takes the forefront of the audio, allowing the other three musicians to take their breather. After his isolated demonstration, the whole trio joins in on demonstration. Around the 3:50 shift is actually the portion of the composition where Pete Rock had sampled for the eponymous track The World Is Yours for Illmatic.
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The composition isn’t as cheery as You’re My Everything but is one of Jamal’s most auspicious exposures as a rehearsed maestro. The composition nears seven and a half minutes, allowing the last minute to be reserved for Jamal’s concluding execution.
The Awakening is an essential listen for those curious to understand the power of unfiltered, raw music composition. With only the essential tools needed, remedies of the soul are created not through exhausted technicalities, but through planned precision and innate talent.
An innate talent that only musicians like the Ahmad Jamal Trio could be born with.