Just over a year after Blue Moon —Jamal’s stellar homage to American cinema and Broadway—the Pittsburgh pianist returns in the same rich vein of form on Saturday Morning. Blue Moon earned a Grammy nomination, and for the second time in recent years Jamal was invited to open the Lincoln Center season in September; clearly, Jamal is enjoying his status as one of jazz’s great, elder statesmen. Saturday Morning could almost be part of the same sessions that produced Blue Moon with its mixture of standards, new compositions and reworked older material. Like Blue Moon, this recording occasionally evokes his classic 1950s Argo years, only there’s more meat on Jamal’s arrangements these days, and remarkably, greater fire in his fingers.
Jamal proves once again that he’s lost none of his customary elegance or electricity. His expansive imagination as an interpreter of standards—particularly ballads—remains almost unmatched. The four musicians sound fully moulded to each other contours and the result is music that is fantastically tight yet exhilarating. Jamal is still minting great melodies, still blazing his own trail and—for many—still leading the way.