This CD set includes a 24-page booklet with an essay by the producer
Ahmad Jamal was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1930. He was a child prodigy. Fritz, as he was known, started playing the piano at the age of three, “…and I've been playing ever since,” he recalled. He began formal classical training at the age of seven and soon was immersed in the influence of various great jazz pianists —especially his idol Erroll Garner. “Everyone in Pittsburgh knew that young Fritz was a piano genius in the late 1940s, when he used to play in the wee hours of the morning in the dingy upstairs lounge of Musicians Local 471,” Harold L. Keith wrote in his column in early 1959 for the weekly Pittsburgh Courier, “...but it seemed that Fritz, like somany others, was destined to remain in the shadows...”
After his professional beginnings in Pittsburgh, he moved to Chicago in 1949, where he fell on hard times, waiting for his union card to be transferred from Pittsburgh to Chicago Musicians Union Local 208. When he finally got it, it would be some time before he landed a good job for the trio he wanted to form. Meanwhile, he would play solo and in various groups until May 1951, when he formed the Fritz Jones trio. Soon after, Fritz became Ahmad Jamal. His drum-less group, Ahmad Jamal's Three Strings, was immediately noted for its disciplined precision. Its dynamism and subtle freshness were hallmarks, and both were evident in great amounts. Legendary producer and writer John Hammond brought the pianist national notoriety through a laudatory article in Down Beat in July 1952. High praise was also offered by musicians, especially Miles Davis, who did not hesitate to say that Jamal was one of his biggest influences.
In this 2-CD set, we can listen to Jamal's remarkable first recordings for the Okeh, Parrot and Epic labels, when his team mates were Ray Crawford on guitar, and successively three great bass players: Eddie Calhoun, Richard Davis, and Israel Crosby. Let's enjoy the captivating and original sound of Ahmad Jamal's Three Strings.
01. The Surrey with the Fringe on Top (Hammerstein II-Rodgers) 2:50
02. Will You Still Be Mine? (Adair-Dennis) 2:42
03. Rica Pulpa (Eliseo Grenet) 2:31 [+]
04. Perfidia (Alberto Dominguez) 2:54 [+]
05. Aki and Ukthay (Brother and Sister) (Ahmad Jamal) 3:05
06. Billy Boy (Traditional) 2:38
07. Ahmad’s Blues (Ahmad Jamal) 2:54
08. A Gal in Calico (Robin-Schwartz) 2:34
09. But Not for Me (George Gershwin) 2:53
10. Excerpts from the Blues (Ahmad Jamal) 2:51 [*]
11. It Could Happen to You (Van Heusen-Burke) 2:44
12. Seleritus (Ahmad Jamal) 3:04
13. New Rhumba (Ahmad Jamal) 4:39
14. A Foggy Day (G. & I. Gerhswin) 4:24
15. All of You (Cole Porter) 3:16
16. It Ain’t Necessarily So (George Gershwin) 3:01
17. I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed (By Anyone but You) (Elliot-Spina) 3:26
18. I Get a Kick Out of You (Cole Porter) 4:51
19. Jeff (Ray Crawford) 4:53
20. Darn That Dream (De Lange-Van Heusen) 3:12
21. Spring Is Here (Hart-Rodgers) 4:03
[+] Okeh's recordings of "Perfidia" and "Rica Pulpa" were never reissued on LP.
[*] The Parrot track “Excerpts from the Blues,” appear reissued for the first time on CD
01. Perfidia (Alberto Dominguez) 3:55
02. Slaughter on 10th Avenue (Richard Rodgers) 4:50
03. Old Devil Moon (Harburg-Lane) 3:43
04. Black Beauty (Duke Ellington) 3:26
05. Don’t Blame Me (Fields-McHugh) 3:21
06. Rica Pulpa (Eliseo Grenet) 3:49
07. Autumn Leaves (Mercer-Kosma) 2:40
08. Crazy He Calls Me (Sigman-Russell) 4:56
09. They Can’t Take That Away from Me (G. & I. Gershwin) 2:58
10. It’s Easy to Remember (Hart-Rodgers) 2:54
11. Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Tease Me) (Ellington-Gains) 3:50
12. Something to Remember You By (Dietz-Schwartz) 2:48
13. Poinciana (The Song of the Tree) (Bernier-Simon) 4:33
14. The Donkey Serenade (Forrest-Friml-Stothart) 3:19
15. Love for Sale (Cole Porter) 8:30
16. Pavanne (Morton Gould) 4:26
Tracks #1 & 3, from the 78 rpm Okeh 6855 (Matrix 5288 & 5290)
Tracks #2 & 7, from the 78 rpm Okeh 6945 (Matrix 5289 & 6945)
Tracks #4 & 6, from the 78 rpm Okeh 6889 (Matrix 5291 & 5338)
Tracks #5 & 8, from the 78 rpm Okeh 6921 (Matrix 5337 & 5340)
Tracks #9 & 12, from the 78 rpm Parrot 810 (Matrix 53-185 & 53-187)
Tracks #10 & 11, from the 78 rpm Parrot 818 (Matrix 53-189 & 53-186)
Tracks #13-21, from the 12-inch “Ahmad Jamal Plays” (Parrot 298, Side A: Matrix P-55-245 / Side B: Matrix P-55-246)
Tracks #1,4,5,6,7,9,11,12,14 and 15 from “The Ahmad Jamal Trio” (Epic LN 3212)
Tracks #2,3,8,10,13 and 16 from “The Piano Scene of Ahmad Jamal” (Epic LN 3631)
AHMAD JAMAL’S THREE STRINGS · CD 1
Personnel on #1-4: Ahmad Jamal, piano; Ray Crawford*, guitar
Eddie Calhoun, bass and maraccas on #3.
Recorded in Chicago, October 25, 1951
Personnel on #5-8: Same as previous.
Recorded in Chicago, May 5, 1952
Personnel on #9-12: Richard Davis, bass, replaces Calhoun.
Recorded in Chicago, January 1954
Personnel on #13-21: Israel Crosby, bass, replaces Davis.
Recorded in Chicago, May 23, 1955
AHMAD JAMAL’S THREE STRINGS · CD 2
Personnel on #1-16: Ahmad Jamal, piano; Ray Crawford*, guitar; Israel Crosby, bass.
Recorded in New York City, October 25, 1955
Note (*) In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the strong impact of Afro-Cuban percussion, generated by legendary conga pioneer Chano Pozo in Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra, and bongo player Jack Costanzo in Stan Kenton’s orchestra and with Nat King Cole’s trio, sparked a new trend inmodern jazz.
No stranger to this vogue of adding color and rhythmic dynamics to some Latin-flavored tunes, Ray Crawford used his guitar case, hitting it like a bongo.We can hear this novelty in the 1951 versions of “Rica Pulpa” and “Perfidia”. But beginning in 1952, he gradually abandoned this practice, which is still heard on “A Gal in Calico,” and created a conga-like percussive sound through a combination of muting and string strikes. With this singular modality he obtained such interesting results that as of 1953 it would be adopted by Herb Ellis in the Oscar Peterson Trio.