Ahmad Jamal Closes This Year's Made in Chicago Series as the Jazz Fest Gets Underway | Bleader

Ahmad Jamal Closes This Year's Made in Chicago Series as the Jazz Fest Gets Underway

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Ahmad Jamal
  • Ahmad Jamal
The Chicago Jazz Festival gets underway tomorrow with a full slate of concerts at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. You can read the Reader's festival guide here. A couple of hours after the official fest activities end for the day, the Pritzker hosts pianist Ahmad Jamal for this year's final concert in the city's Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz series.

A Pittsburgh native, Jamal moved to Chicago in 1950, when he was 20, and it was here that he made his mark, cutting his first records for the Okeh label and then releasing trio albums on Chess subsidiary Argo that turned him into a jazz star. His 1958 LP At the Pershing: But Not for Me spent an astonishing 108 weeks on the Billboard album charts. He turned 80 on July 2, and he's turning his concert into a big birthday celebration. First he'll play with his excellent working band—bassist James Cammack, percussionist Manolo Badrena, and drummer Kenny Washington— and then Jeff Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra will take a set. The evening concludes with the two groups joining forces—a rare chance to hear Jamal in a big-band setting. The concert is free and starts at 7:30 PM.

Earlier this year Jamal released A Quiet Time (Dreyfus), an excellent session that proves that his rhythmic acuity and harmonic richness are undiminished by age. He's been using the same quartet format for the past couple decades, and it provides him with a crisp, snappy attack against which to unfurl his lyric improvisations. His solos are notable for their grandeur, marked by dramatic left-hand flourishes and fleet, steadily shifting melodic shapes. Few pianists can match his mastery of dynamics—though his performances swing madly, he also economically manipulates silence and space to construct an ineffable narrative arc. Below you can listen to "Paris After Dark," a track from A Quiet Time.

Today's playlist:

Prince Lasha, Insight (Dusty Groove/Sony Music)
Dave Stapleton, Catching Sunlight (Edition)
"Blue" Gene Tyranny, Just for the Record (Lovely Music)
Freddie Hubbard, Here to Stay (Blue Note)
Patty Loveless, Mountain Soul II (Saguaro Road)

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