I woke up the other morning with “Poinciana” by the Ahmad Jamal Trio running through my brain, one of the most persistent earworms I’ve had in a long, long time. It was a great morning.
Since discovering Jamal a couple of years ago, I’ve become an avid fan, especially of the early trio recordings featuring the jazz pianist with bass player Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier. They were a brilliant ensemble and can be heard on a series of great records on the Argo label from the late 1950s to 1962, when Crosby died suddenly. The interplay among the three musicians is stunning sometimes.
I’ve found one way to stay focused on my work is to have the trio playing on the turntable. As a result I know the music almost by heart, even if I don’t know the names of each piece — I’d played Live at the Pershing dozens of times before I knew for sure that the tasty 7-minute romp that opens Side 2 is called “Poinciana,” and there is still quite a handful of songs that I’d be hard-pressed to assign a name, even though I adore them.
I suppose it’s not an especially rare thing for a group of musicians to mesh so well, but it’s close to a miracle to capture for posterity those moments when musicians grasp each other’s rhythm so fluently.