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ALBUM REVIEWS / JAZZ : AHMAD JAMAL, "I Remember Duke, Hoagy & Strayhorn" Telarc ** 1/2

March 22, 1995|BILL KOHLHAASE

Ellington, Carmichael and Strayhorn aren't the only composers covered here. Jamal himself contributes a pair of tunes and the pianist puts his stamp on the others, most apparently on Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," which he extends in trademark style with flourishes, asides and general thematic mischief.

But this is the least Jamal-like recording the pianist has done in years. He treats each of these classics from a respectable distance, ignoring rhythmic hooks and eschewing the humor that has marked his play during the last 30 years, while exploring each tune's lyrical content, sometimes to excess. This approach is smoothly assured, if somewhat tedious, on "In a Sentimental Mood," delightfully playful and expansive on "Prelude to a Kiss." Jamal's "My Flower," played solo, is surprisingly stiff. The inclusion of even the sparest accompaniment from bassist Ephriam Wolfolk and drummer Arti Dixon allows the keyboardist to unwind.

Despite many pleasant moments, "I Remember" finds Jamal's sizable personality diminished. While his style here can be technically impressive, this lack of character does little to crack these chestnuts. Maybe he shouldn't have taken his work so seriously.

Recordings are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent.)

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