Originally released in 1962 this album – a trim 26 minutes – featured the great jazz pianist backed by the Richard Evans-conducted orchestra. A rare outing of this nature for Jamal – who, to this day, favours the trio format it is here available for the first time on CD, the eight tracks of the album augmented with trio recordings to take it up to over 60 minutes.
The original album is wonderful – a Cuban/South American feel dominating. Highlights include the funk feel of Bogota and the stately grace of Haitian Market Place, Jamal’s keys lightly gliding across the samba rhythms of the orchestra.
He suits this setting.
But the extra tracks are unreleased performances from his 1959 trio, a juxtaposition to this main album. Here he is backed by the wonderful drummer Vernel Fournier (his perfect feel on Poinciana) and bassist Israel Crosby makes it effortless for this trio to walk over normally faster songs and speed across ballads, switching feels to suit. Particularly on There Is No Greater Love and It’s You Or No One his presence is felt as much as its ever heard.
So this reissue appeals for it shows two sides to Jamal’s playing. Almost contradictory sides in a sense, certainly contrasting. But that style of his, that signature, the way his lines just coast so easily, effortlessly across the rhythm of each piece is shown here in two entirely different sets of songs, or material that’s dressed in two very different ways.
A class act, of course. And something a little different within his vast, impeccable canon of music.