The great Ahmad Jamal has produced the brand new From Baku to New York City just released. The Baku born Shahin Novrasli harnesses a very supple fast improvising facility and hitches it to a flexible classical technique. His poetic side is extremely strong and natural, ripples of mindfulness radiate in ever increasing circles.
With Jamal producing, the Ahmadians bassist James Cammack and drummer Herlin Riley play with Shahin on From Baku to New York City and the record arrives on the same day as the new Jamal record Ballades.
On one level one track released back in the summer ‘Cry of Gulchokhra’ ahead of the album, written by the great Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, is a conversation with Cammack; on another it is like a nocturne, and revels in the simplicity of modal study breaking eventually into the release of a natural bluesy display of virtuosity in the open improvisation drawn from the ingredients of what has gone before like a natural conclusion.
As for the other tracks on the album the choices journey deep into the popular jazz and songbook consciousness: ‘Both Sides Now’ has a throbbing pedal note to underpin the Joni journeying and the rhapsody; ‘52nd Street Theme’ bobs along like a cork in the bebop river nipping past stones and little sticks.
‘Night Song’ is a beautiful ballad, the layers of modal discovery showing the incredible touch that Shahin possesses and absorption of the essence of the mugham; ‘Shahin’s Day’ is exploratory the senses going deeper and deeper, Herlin Riley on drums an iridescent presence. ‘She’s Out Of My Life’ begins in epic quietude with ‘Salt Peanuts’, ‘Memories’ and ‘Stella By Starlight’ all heartening in their passion. It is a long way from Baku to New York city and Shahin journeys there and straight to the heart on his greatest album to date. You may well chuckle or grin from ear to ear in delight. SG
From Baku to New York City is on Jazz Village **** highly recommended