Although Jamal is one of the truly original stylists in modern jazz, his historical role is always underestimated by the music's establishment. Looking back on his long career, however, one has to be impressed by his accomplishments. It is now acknowledged that one of his earliest recordings, "Pavanne," was the source for two cornerstones of modal jazz in the 1960s Miles Davis's "So What" and the related John Coltrane tune "Impressions." Some have traced elements of funk back to Jamal's early work as well.
After all these years, Jamal continues to refine his trio concept, relying on long-term relationships with other players. Drummer Idris Muhammad has been with him for a decade, and bassist James Cammack for more than twenty years. Jamal still plays "Poinciana," but his playing has evolved; he now favors lavish introductions that contrast with his often-sparse theme statements, and his attack now seems stronger and more dramatic. He brings his trio to Hill Auditorium on Saturday, February 16.
[Review published February 2008]