hmad Jamal turned 80 in July. One could be forgiven, however, for assuming he's 70. Or even 60.
He still looks great and his energy level is amazing. Then there's his handiwork on the piano, which -- in terms of most of the technical aspects, as well all of the artistic ones -- surpasses what the majority of players one-quarter his age could dream of delivering onstage.
Indeed, Jamal proved to be an ageless wonder on Friday, the first of three nights at Yoshi's at Jack London Square in Oakland. The jazz man -- best known for the '50s hit "Poinciana" and his influence on Miles Davis' music -- proved worthy of the title "living legend," though his set had less to do with nostalgia than it did with proving that
he still has plenty to offer.
The Pittsburgh native's focus was clearly on his new material, tracks from 2008's "It's Magic" and this year's "A Quiet Time." That was fine with the near-capacity crowd, since Jamal and his terrific quartet -- bassist James Cammack, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena -- made nearly every new song sound like it was destined to be a classic.
Plus, it was undeniable treat to see Jamal -- one of the planet's most accomplished jazz artists -- play in a 300-capacity club. The last time he came through Northern California, mind you, it was to perform before thousands as a headliner at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
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