Ahmad Jamal


Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Ahmad Jamal – The Second Time Around” from Poinciana (1963 Argo)


Taken from a live 1958 engagement at Washington DC’s Spotlite Club, Poinciana is a brilliant jazz trio record from one of the genre’s most underrated pianists. “The Second Time Around” is a reworking of a standard that was not quite a standard yet, in that it would be made famous by its inclusion in the 1960 Bing Crosby comedy High Time.

Jazz.com, celebrating the fifty year anniversary of Poinciana in 2008, wrote the following about Jamal’s playing:

Jamal had a fresh conception of the jazz keyboard that stood out from the pack in 1958, and still sounds invigorating in 2008. His playing revolutionized the use of space and time in jazz; Jamal knew when to hold back and when to go for the big effect, and he took chances on both extremes. He is usually (and rightly) praised for the subtlety of his playing, but Jamal also deserves recognition for his ability to hit the home run, his knack for pulling out some grand, dramatic effect at just the right moment in a performance.

This seems especially apt here: “The Second Time Around” is extremely laid back, well-suited for a hotel lounge. In this recording, glasses can be heard clinking in the background. Jamal and his band play that up the lounge aspect to great effect, approaching the melody as more of a series of vamped chords than as one might a proper tune. They lay back, until they don’t, at which point Jamal is hammering chords up the keyboard at double the speed and volume at which he had been playing. It’s as if he is saying, pardon the interruption, folks, but we are more than mere background entertainment over here, because LOOK AT WHAT I CAN DO NO SERIOUSLY LOOK, and then it’s back to playing with incredible restraint again as if nothing had happened. It’s quite remarkable.