I've been a fan of the great Pittsburgh pianist since the early 1960s, when his records were released in the UK by Pye - first one I bought was "Listen!", and I swiftly graduated to many of the others he recorded in the period for Chicago-based Argo [a division of the legendary Chess label].
I don't know what it is about pianists from Pittsburgh, but they all seem to share a certain refinement and a distinctive clarity of 'touch' - the city has produced many of my own personal favourite pianists, including such Mary Lou Williams, Errol Garner, Billy Strayhorn, Dodo Marmarosa, Sonny Clarke, Horace Parlan, and of course Mr Ahmad Jamal.
In the far-distant past, Jamal wasn't a darling of the 'critics' - probably because he was popular, and was often characterised by those same 'critics' as a 'cocktail' pianist, which he most definitely is NOT, a fact underlined by the endorsement of Miles Davis, who dug him greatly and proved it by covering Jamal's "All Blues". [Another pianist who also recorded for Argo, King Fleming, also suffered from the same stereotyping.]
What we got on friday night was a beautiful exposition of straight ahead jazz piano, no obvious 'grandstanding', just definitive post-bop style, with the maestro delivering mostly selections from his recent albums on Verve/Dreyfus, although he did give us a piece of"Poinciana" [first recorded on his mid-fifties Epic debut, and a brief "But Not For Me" [most famous from his "LIve At The Pershing" album]. I enjoyed it very much, and it was also a great bonus to see Idris Muhammed, Jamal's regular drummer for a few years now. In short, friday night was a real treat for lovers of genuine jazz piano - a full house, decent sound and although the trio played for an hour and three quarters, it seemed to pass all too quickly.