Ahmad Jamal Trio 1958 – That Was a Rhythm Section

SKF NOTE: Ahmad Jamal (piano), Israel Crosby (bass), and Vernell Fournier (drums). Man, that was a trio, a rhythm section. In the past, many years ago, I had an idea to write a magazine article about the Great Jazz Rhythm sections. The specifics are lost, but I do recall wanting to include this 1958 version of Ahmad Jamal’s trio among the greats.

Live at the Pershing Vol. 2 was my first Jamal album. I’m sure I bought it as a cut-out record, knowing only of the Jamal trio by name, probably in the early 1970s. There were always, it seemed, cheap cut-out records available. And the early 1970s was when I began buying and studying records in earnest.

Vernell Fournier kills on this date. Right from the start, track 1, Too Late Now, his brush playing is masterful. I used to practice playing brushes listening to this album through headphones. Talk about a learning curve. Not being a “schooled” drummer I relied almost totally on my ears, striving to nail Fournier’s sound, not his technique. It was not easy.

The classic 1958 recording of Billy Boy on Miles Davis’s Milestones album features Philly Joe Jones with the other musicians in the Miles Davis rhythm section — Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) — playing Ahmad Jamal’s Billy Boy arrangement from Live at the Pershing Vol. 2.

But I loved this trio’s team spirit and relaxed, relentless s-w-i-n-g. Phew!

Forty-eight years after buying Live at the Pershing Vol. 2 I still have it in MP3 format on my among my iPod playlists. This 62-year old recording date is still fresh. It could have been recorded this past weekend.

In fact, looking further into this album tonight I discover a Complete LIve at the Pershing album, and the same trio in 1958 with The Complete Live at the Spotlite Club — both “Complete” albums on CD, not MP3. Would love to hear them.

How many albums hold their magic over a lifetime? Personally, the percentage is small. If I was a new drummer trying to learn to play brushes, Vernell Fournier and Live at the Pershing Vol. 2 would be on my go-to list.

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