AHMAD JAMAL — Happy Moods (review)

AHMAD JAMAL — Happy Moods album cover Album · 1960 · Cool Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
js
Its certainly not hard to find musicians with powerhouse technique in the world of jazz. Going back to jazz’s earliest days, cutting contests established a tradition in which artists would try to blow each other off the stage with overt displays of virtuosity, but what about the artist with something unique to say. If you prefer those who keep their technique in check and favor quirky individualistic approaches to their instrument, then Ahmad Jamal might be your ticket. Jamal belongs in a unique class of piano players that might also include Duke Ellington, Theolonius Monk and Herbie Nichols, players who know how to pace their solos and use quiet space as a tool that can be more effective than streams of notes. Its hard to believe that critics once questioned Jamal’s validity as a jazz artist due to his frequent use of a very light “loungeish” touch on the piano, because Jamal obviously has power to spare when such an approach is called for. Rather than puff up his solos with attempts to prove instrumental power, Jamal instead treats the piano like a small orchestra and provides the shades and colors that fit the moment the best.

“Happy Moments” was recorded when Jamal’s musical vision was at an early peak. Albums he had released just a few years earlier established him as very popular and commercially successful, not an easy feat in the financially troubled world of jazz. Jamal’s rhythm section on here, Israel Crosby on bass and Vernell Fournier on drums, was one of his most sympathetic as they effortlessly follow Jamal’s many moods and often abrupt changes in volume. If “Happy Moods” isn’t Jamal’s best, it certainly is very representative of his playing at a time when he was drawing a lot of attention.

I would highly recommend this album for fans of jazz piano who have been curious about the Jamal legacy. Jamal is one of those rare musicians who never seem to fatigue my listening. There is always something unexpected lurking around the corner and so much sly humor as he strings people along with his odd ideas and sometimes almost avant-garde asides that slip by barely noticed.
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js wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Cool, hope you enjoy it.
Abraxas wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I'll have to check this out, never knew which early Jamal album to get. I really like his mid 60s to early 70s albums, but there he sounds at times like McCoy, or vice-versa?

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