Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A jazzman swinging to rhapsody and back


Ahmad Jamal is at the piano with his ensemble and a guest trumpeter. They opened Jazz at Lincoln Center's season Sept. 19 at the Rose Theater. Jamal will perform Oct. 12 at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis. Michelle V. Agins/New York Times photo

From page A9 | October 11, 2013 |

Hear him locally

Who: Pianist Ahmad Jamal

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: $25-$49 general, $12.50-$24.50 students; or 530-754-2787

Special feature: The UC Davis Jazz Combo will give a free outdoor performance at 6:30 p.m. in the Corin Courtyard adjacent to the box office

By Nate Chinen

As the pianist Ahmad Jamal and the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra took their bows at the Rose Theater on Sept. 19, someone in the crowd filed a simple but urgent request. “Poinciana!” he shouted against the applause. “Poinciana!” he shouted again, hoarsely. “Poinciana! Poinciana! Poinciana!” Eventually reality set in: the house lights went up, and the audience began to file toward the doors.

“Poinciana,” in case the name means nothing to you, is a tune by Nat Simon that Jamal recorded with his trio in 1958. A small masterpiece of floating groove, careful in its application of pressure, it belongs to the small society of jazz compositions that have become runaway pop hits. Just as “Take Five” defined Brubeck and Desmond, it has been an ageless signature for Jamal — and maybe a bit of a burden, given the irreducible scope of his output since.

Why should it matter that Jamal didn’t play “Poinciana” here, amid the festive light-pomp of the season opener for Jazz at Lincoln Center? He did play it in the same room a couple of years ago; likewise when he opened Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2008-09 season, in a concert structured exactly like this one. And there was a welcome hint of the tune’s gait and bass line in “Saturday Morning,” a quietly majestic ballad that Jamal offered in the first half.

So the omission meant nothing, except perhaps as a metaphor. At the end of an elegant two-hour concert that showcased Jamal’s capacity for building tension within tight spaces, it was bewilderingly easy to feel unfulfilled. Just as that guy barking his request did, I left the Rose Theater in disappointment, thinking about missed opportunities. For me it wasn’t about a song, but rather a spirit of engagement.

Jamal, 83, organizes his music as a series of dynamic events, pinballing between binary extremes: loud/soft, fast/slow, big/small. During the concert’s first half, which featured Reginald Veal on bass, Herlin Riley on drums and Manolo Badrena on percussion, he ran the bandstand like a contractor surveying a job site, often turning from the piano to wave an arm or shoot a glare. Every song in the quartet’s 40-minute set involved a form of Latin rhythm, and every song ended with a crisp, decisive snap.

Riley and Veal make an ideal rhythm team for this music, just as they have for Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s artistic director. On “Morning Mist” and “Silver,” they laid an earthy foundation, trancelike but alert. They were impeccable on “Saturday Morning,” the title track of Jamal’s new album on the Jazz Village label, which features the same personnel. But the whole mood was terse, reined in.

That extended to the concert’s second half, featuring enlargements of Jamal’s music by members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. One problem was the harmonic inertia of the material: “Baalbek,” in an arrangement by the alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, couldn’t gather much forward pull even during a trumpet solo by Marsalis. (It was his only solo all night, which made the concert’s title, “Ahmad Jamal and Wynton Marsalis,” a little misleading.)

Where the second half hit its stride was in two arrangements that captured the variability of Jamal’s style. The trumpeter Marcus Printup made “Manhattan Reflections” into an episodic saga, with punchy accents giving way to grand, flowing gestures. And the saxophonist Ted Nash gave “Kaleidoscope” a marvelous range of ideas, including a burst of Dixielandish counterpoint followed by a lush canopy of modern chords, in descending sequence.

Then, after an interlude by Jamal, the band revved back into gear, swinging hard behind a commanding solo by the trombonist Elliot Mason. Somehow this was the evening’s only stretch of swinging rhythm, but that wasn’t why it felt like a revelation. It was because Jamal and the band seemed both locked in and free; for a few fleeting moments, they left nothing to be desired.



New York Times News Service



With collective’s help, you can fix it yourself at Bike Forth

By Bob Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

New chemistry building in the works at UCD

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

Kids get a peek at the great outdoors

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Heidrick Ag History Center rebranded as California Agriculture Museum

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

BeerFest expands to include cider

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

May 11 talk focuses on clean water

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

‘From Age-ing to Sage-ing’ guides library group

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Crossing lines, on ‘Davisville’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

’12 Angry Men’ will screen Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Pet Food Express organizes Save a Kitten fundraiser

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Retirees to hear about Woodland’s shade tree campaign

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Round up at the registers for Davis schools

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

Origami lovers will meet at library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Earth-centered author comes to Avid Reader

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Breast cancer treatment update offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

MIND Institute lecture will focus on prenatal exposure to insecticide

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Pence Gallery: We’re overflowing with gratitude

By Natalie Nelson | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Health care documentary will screen at meeting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Who is Ralph Hexter? Chancellor’s No. 2 fills us in

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A10 | Gallery



Injection wells endanger our aquifers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

New book flows with good news about water

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4 | Gallery



Aggies go flat in 7-1 Sacramento State win at Raley

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils crush Edison to earn McClatchy rematch

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Blue Devils grind out a victory over Oak Ridge

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis boys dominate first playoff match

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Alliance/Legacy roundup: Local squads fare well over the weekend

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

AYSO roundup: Davis teams capture Fog Classic crowns

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery





Sac Ballet presents Modern Masters on May 8-9

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

High school artists exhibited at Pence Gallery

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

See Christian Quintin’s paintings at Hattie Weber Museum

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble returns

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Davis Youth Flute Choir tunes up for China tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8







Comics: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B5