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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Live in Marciac


under licence to
JazzVillage JV 570078.79




1.Sunday Afternoon

2.The Shout


4.The Gypsy



7.All Of You

8.Blue Moon

9.Autumn Rain


All the above + Morning Mist (after All Of You)

Ahmad Jamal (piano), Reginald Veal (double bass), Herlin Riley (drums), Manolo Badrena (percussion)

rec.Live at Jazz in Marciac, Marciac, France August 5th, 2014. CD [72:51] DVD [71:00]

This is a fabulous disc on which Ahmad Jamal’s customary brilliance is on full display while he is having an obvious ball playing in front of a capacity crowd of 6,000 at last year’s Jazz in Marciac festival in France. In 2017 this festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary so can be truly afforded the accolade as one of the world’s top jazz festivals that brings to it some of the very biggest names in Jazz. This year alone it hosted no less than 67 main concerts and 120 on the fringe with a total of 200,000 visitors!

The disc opens with a dreamily gorgeous rendition of Jamal’s Sunday Afternoon which relaxes and nurtures for a full 12 minutes. Tantalisingly setting off with only Reginald Veal’s lazily sounding bass inviting the listener into Jamal’s world, the rest gradually enter the mix with Jamal last after almost three and a half minutes. Looking at Wikipedia the translation from German described Veal as giving what it described as "dramaturgically outstandingly constructed solos", perhaps something has been lost in translation; I just sum his playing up as ultra cool. As far as Jamal is concerned it is his understated playing that is so captivating though he swings just as much today as he ever did and at 85 that is some achievement.

All the tunes are delivered in this laid-back fashion making the disc a real example of tuning in and chilling out. There’s a beautiful tribute to the late Horace Silver in the shape of his Strollin’ and in Jamal’s own Silver but then everything is so wonderfully musical which may sound an obvious thing to say but often jazz can be somewhat self indulgent but not so here where musicality is the overriding consideration.

Piano, bass and drums is a well known format but in this case the addition of percussion adds a really exciting extra layer and Puerto-Rican born Manolo Badrena is a fantastic master craftsman as one would expect from a man who played with Weather Report 1976-77) as well as Zawinul Syndicate, the Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, Spyro Gyra, Art Blakey, Carla Bley, the Talking Heads and Blondie amongst others. Watch him in an exciting duet (or duel) with Alex Acuna on YouTube. Herlin Riley’s drumming is beautifully measured, always delivering just the right amount of rhythm without overstating his case and completing a truly cohesive quartet. A perfect example of this teamwork is the final track, Autumn Rain in which to borrow a well used phrase there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. With the rhythm section creating a wonderfully expressive canvas upon which Jamal paints his brilliantly colourful score, the fabulous main tune is expressed with such sensitivity and charm by this most personable pianist and the whole experience is totally engaging.

The accompanying DVD is a brilliant record of another concert from the festival with the same material plus Morning Mist. Whereas DVDs are often disappointing in that they’re frequently filmed from a long way off or are out of focus this is an object lesson in how it should be done with superbly shot close-ups making the watcher really feel part of the action and enabling them to enjoy the whole concert anew.

I cannot praise this CD+DVD highly enough but suffice it to say that you’ll love it.

Steve Arloff

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