Week 6: “Poinciana” by Ahmad Jamal


One reviewer called this song a “mesmerizing voyage”, and I have to agree. And it’s not mesmerizing in the way that a lot of jazz piano is; that is, Jamal isn’t trying to play as many notes as he possibly can. I first heard this song on a jazz radio station that seems to like playing a genre I like to call “wank jazz” – characterized by talented musicians who do triple shots of espresso before playing. On this recording, despite the song’s energy, Ahmad Jamal and his band sound instead like they’re all relaxing with some chai tea.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The drums. It’s difficult not to tap along to the rhythm that the drummer (Vernel Fournier) sets up at the beginning. Later on, as the song builds a bit of momentum, he brings in a ride that would make you want to dance if you weren’t already so relaxed.

2. You can hear people in the audience chilling out in the background. It was recorded live at a jazz club on a cold night in Chicago in 1958, and I like to imagine all the well-dressed jazz fans of varying degrees of hep-ness enjoying their drinks as the snow swirls outside.

3. The seventh chords. Everytime the song starts to sound like it’s getting too serious, he throws in those laid-back 7ths, and you go right back to being mesmerized.

Recommended listening activity:

Having tea on the couch and tapping your finger against the side of the mug.

Buy it here.