Toronto Jazz Festival – Ahmad Jamal, June 23 2008

[Note: this review was written by Brian, an avid Ahmad Jamal enthusiast well acquainted with Ahmad’s discography.]

Toronto – Even if you haven’t heard of legendary pianist Ahmad Jamal, you’ve definitely heard the unmistakable sound he popularized.

In late fifties, Jamal’s understated, eloquent style influenced scores of other artists, famously inspiring Miles Davis’ during his First Great Quintet period. In more recent years, Jamal has been rediscovered by a new generation of artists: he’s been sampled on countless hip-hop records (Nas’ “The World is Yours”, Common’s “Resurrection”).

At his packed Festival Mainstage show earlier this week, the legendary Jamal put on a mesmerizing performance that found the 78-year old pianist still pushing his delicate, thoughtful sound into new directions.

He was accompanied by a stellar rhythm section consisting of his longtime bassist James Cammack, drummer James Johnson, and the odd-haired percussionist Manolo Badrena. The interplay between the latter two stole the show for me; it was exhilarating to watch them gradually evolve their patterns together into complex, crowd-rocking grooves.

I’ve been waiting for years to see Jamal perform, and his sparse, dynamic piano play was captivating to hear in person. The audience agreed with me, bringing the band back out for three standing-ovation encores. It was a treat to see Jamal continue to push his artistic boundaries well after his status as a jazz legend has been cemented.

4.5/5

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Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival

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