Ahmad Jamal’s “Blue Moon”

On his recent release, Blue Moon (JazzVillage), pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal reinterprets a clutch of songs drawn from class American cinema and Broadway. The disc, Jamal’s first release in more than three years, features the pianist’s latest working ensemble: bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena.

Jamal’s interest in cinema runs deep. When he was younger, he says, “I would occasionally watch several films a day.” Jamal sees music and film as closely related. In fact, his own music was even used in the 1995 Clint Eastwood film, The Bridges of Madison Country. “Music plays a central role in cinema,” he says. “That is the very reason why generations of great composers and arrangers dedicated themselves to this art: Johnny Mandel, Quincy Jones. … Even during the silent era, pianists were in demand.”

An important and influential figure in jazz history (he was a key influence on Miles Davis in his formative years, and countless others), Jamal, now 81, introduced the concepts of space, silence and dramatic dynamics into jazz performance.

In addition to the six songs on Blue Moon drawn from cinema and Broadway, there are three Jamal originals: “Autumn Rain,” “Morning Mist,” and “I Remember Italy,” which underlines the empathy he has for that country. In reflecting on the overall album and his new group’s chemistry, Jamal states, “Recording an album is like playing on stage—all together and, most importantly, not isolated in our booths. There is no secret. It is a very human matter.”

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