Octogenarian pianist Ahmad Jamal’s recent albums have served as fine reminders of his spirited gigs – full of familiar treatments of familiar materials, foxy rhythm-swaps with alert partners, dramatic surges impishly retreating to hushed tinkles. This CD+DVD live set from Marciac in France last August, accompanied by bassist Reginald Veal and percussionists Manolo Badrena and Herlin Riley, catches the warmth and charm the same band had displayed in London earlier in the year, and adds two tributes to just-departed fellow pianist Horace Silver. Jamal lets the groove do much of the work on Sunday Afternoon, astutely pitching zippy short runs, quotes, and elbowing chords against the elegant hubbub of his drummers; mixes lyricism and scrambled resolutions on The Gypsy; plays Silver’s Strollin’ as a glossy swinger; and makes his uptempo, hook-prefaced version of Blue Moon a high point. That sensitivity to group dynamics that Miles Davis long ago admired in Jamal is as effortlessly tuned in as ever.
John Fordham is the Guardian's main jazz critic. He has written several books on the subject, reported on it for publications including Time Out, Sounds, Wire and Word, and contributed to documentaries for radio and TV. He is a former editor of Time Out, City Limits and Jazz UK, and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3