After listening to this album last night for the first time, I had to start a new thread, rather than having the info possibly obscured in one of the other, longer ones.
It is a quartet of piano, bass, drums and percussion. The drummer, Herlin Riley, has somewhat of a rock orientation, providing a steady beat that keeps the listener focused. The percussionist, Manolo Badrena, provides a Latin feel, kind of "dancing around" the rhythm and giving the pleasant illusion that the music is more "free" than it actually is. The bassist, Reginald Veal, is not passive at all, but simultaneously lays down a solid rhythm while contributing to the melody in a major way. Jamal, who is now 81, is in absolutely top form. Not "top form for an 81 year-old guy", but "top form" period.
The combination is magic. It is reminiscent of some of Jamal's earlier classic works, but in my view even better. Some of his earlier stuff is, for me as a non-musician, more abstract than I can relate to on a long-term basis. Others that do not fit that description, such as Poinciana
, are very pretty, but also very mellow and do not provide much of an excitement factor. This album has everything. The drumming and percussion keep things moving forward, providing the excitement factor. Jamal provides just enough abstraction to keep things interesting and thought-provoking, but not so much that he ever loses the plot. It is a near-perfect middle ground, a magic recipe.
There are 74 minutes of music here, and not one single mediocre track on it.
What about sound quality? It is top-notch, audiophile reference quality, the best-sounding album in my collection. The percussion is beautifully captured, the drums hit hard, the bass is full-bodied, and there is overall a convincing illusion of reality and three-dimensional space.
Edit: I should add that there's a promotional video on youtube here