We can argue until days end on what the most popular styles of jazz are, but one of the most iconic sounds of jazz is the stride piano, which is beautifully demonstrated in Ahmad Jamal‘s recording of Dolphin Dance. Unbeknownst to the older generation of Ahmad Jamal fans, this particular song has been a huge part of Hip Hop’s DNA, as it has been sampled many times over, but more popularly for Common‘s (then known as Common Sense) song entitled Resurrection, which was the title track for his sophomore album. Today we acknowledge the anniversary of the release of the classic album, which for many fans and critics goes down as one of the greatest Hip Hop albums ever assembled.
Like many artists that have long, storied careers, it took Common many years and many albums to be recognized by mainstream critics, as well as casual fans. Resurrection wasn’t that album that got him in the public eye, but it was adored by the faithful Hip Hop fans. Long time music parter and native Chicagoan Kanye West has used this album as a backbone to his early development as a Hip Hop artists, and throughout his career, Kanye has also acknowledged and teamed up with No I.D, the producer, the architect if you will, behind the entire Resurrection album.
To a novice jazz listener, Ahmad Jamal‘s (Pronounced AH-mad) stride style of play on Dolphin Dance, the song in which NO I.D. used to make the beat for Resurrection, is similar to what you may hear at your local upscale department store on weekends, or what you’re used to when you’re going to the 15th floor. As you listen more and more of the complexity to the music, your appreciation is sure to grow. The trio on Dolphin Dance is rounded out by Jamil Nassar on bass and Frank Gant on drums, and it is a beautiful sound as Nassar and Jamal combine to create the bass foundation, as Jamal handles the melody, while at times, the bass takes a bit of a melody. Frank Gant’s brushes on the drums add a certain eloquence that is the perfect addition to the song. The trio is small and simple, but the music comes across in as an excellent example of what stride jazz is supposed to sound like.
Because this song has been newly embraced, when Hip Hop fanatics hear this traditional, loungy, smoothed out tune, they think of the scratches by Mista Sinista, those gritty drums that fall into place, and the redefinition of the emcee Common Sense. An emcee that was gimmicky on his debut album, Common’s “Resurrection” was one of both personal and musical growth. Although current Common fans have picked up his music at different points throughout his career, this was the moment where he made his words count, and it was the foundation to the success and notoriety in which he as today.
We should also note that the video/12″ version was much different than the original. The lyrics and drum sounds are different, as well as the layering, but the Ahmad Jamal sample is the constant.