Monday Recommendation: Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Spellbound (Status)

Spellbound coverOf Sudanese heritage, the bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927-1993) was born Jonathan Timms in Brooklyn. After working with Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, among others, Abdul-Malik studied music of other cultures. He was among the first to incorporate Middle Eastern and Indian influences into jazz. Except for a straight-ahead blues, this 1965 album consists of themes from movies: “Spellbound,” “Never on Sunday,” “Body and Soul” and “Delilah.” Sudanese oud player Hamza el Din enhances the melding of musical dialects. As mentioned in passing here a few weeks ago, Abdul-Malik and saxophonist Lucky Thompson had in common an appreciation for Paul Neves, a pianist whose work on Spellbound makes it all the more regrettable that he died little known in the 1980s. Neves, cornetist/violinist Ray Nance and saxophonist Seldon Powell are quite at home in the exotic mix. It’s good to have this available again.

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  1. Tom King says

    His playing on the “Sound of Jazz” CBS tv programme with Thelonious Monk is great.

  2. PN NJ says

    One of my favorite albums growing up was his “East Meets West” (1959), an early fusion of Middle Eastern and jazz (bought by my dad). I saw him in an NYC club around 1980 and told him how much I enjoyed it. He was probably surprised that anyone even knew the album at that point. It was a good introduction to a world of music I didn’t even know existed.

    Today, artists like Anouar Brahem and Rabih Abou-Khalil continue to explore this interesting fusion.

  3. John Bartholomew says

    Thanks for alerting us to the availability of this — I obtained a copy, and it’s very rewarding listening. I’m quite fond of the under-appreciated Ray Nance, particularly his 2+ decades of work as the go-to trumpet soloist with Ellington. (For those who do not know, both Dizzy and Miles shared that admiration.)

    The recording proves that your praise for Paul Neves is spot on. He plays in a style that frequently recalls the work of Tommy Flanagan in the early sixties. (Ref: At Ease with Coleman Hawkins) I couldn’t name a better model than that. And as for Seldon Powell, he also delivers consistently-interesting solos and has a luscious tone. And now for a few quibbles that are ancillary to the music itself.

    Scott Yanow contributed the liner notes. They are rather perfunctory and, surprisingly, seem to be unaware of some obvious points, such as the fact that “Song of Delilah” was, indeed, recorded prior to this session by jazzmen other than Yusef Lateef, the Brown-Roach Quintet being a quite conspicuous example! The booklet also reproduces the back cover of the LP, with the original notes by Dan Morgenstern, who is of course worth reading, but few people will be able to do so without the aid of magnification. The typeface is only about 1/32 of an inch high. [Free tip: If you don’t have a magnifying glass handy, check your computer printer. These often have a magnification function available when in copier mode.]