Song of the Day: Ahmad Jamal “Poinciana”
The song, “Poinciana” from the 1958 album, At the Pershing: But Not for Me was a massive Jazz hit in the late 50’s for Ahmad Jamal‘s trio. Released on Argo Records, this timeless classic was recorded live at the Pershing Hotel in Chicago with a simple trio of Jamal’s piano, and a crack rhythm section of bass and drums. The 8 tracks featured on this album were culled from a total of 43 that were recorded in on the evening of January 16th, 1958. Based on a New Orleans second line groove laid down by drummer Vernel Fournier and bassist Israel Crosby, Jamal lets this gorgeous 1936 melody (based on a Cuban folk song), float and soar over top of luscious rhythmic textures. Get ready for 8 solid minutes of pure beauty. With each passing chorus, the group creates variation upon variation on the tune’s simple theme, at times giving the impression of a much larger group. Despite early negative reviews, the popularity of this song made this album a number one best seller and kept it on the Billboard Magazine Album Charts for 107 weeks! Based on the success Jamal enjoyed with this album, he opened up his own club & restaurant, ‘The Alhambra,’ which gave his band a home venue while not away on tour.
For over 50 years, Ahmad Jamal has been one of the most highly regarded and successful jazz musicians leading a small group. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Jamal started playing piano at the age of 3, with formal lessons starting at age 7. Early exposure to the burgeoning jazz scene of his home town, which included greats such as Earl Hines, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams and Errol Garner, left an enduring mark on the young pianist. He went on to forge a wholly original style of playing and composing, which emphasized space and time over sheer speed. He has surely become one of the most influential pianists in Jazz history, and has also been widely cited as an great inspiration and influence on Hip Hop music. His tracks have been sampled on at least 40 Rap songs according to an Associated Press Profile on Jamal. At 87 years old, this man is showing no signs of stopping–catch him live while you still can!