An octogenarian jazz master who exerted an influence on not just other pianists, but most prominently on Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal has remained a vital presence on the music scene since the 1950s. His nuanced 2017 album, Marseille, finds him drawing upon his years of experience with a set of originals and covers that reveal just how vital and creative he remains. Primarily, the album showcases three distinctly varied interpretations of the title track, a hypnotic, modal ode to a city he loves, and to a greater extent a country that awarded him the prestigious Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et de Lettres in 2007. In fact, Marseille was even recorded in France; specifically in the Parisian suburb of Malakoff. Joining Jamal are several longtime associates including bassist James Cammack, former Jazz at Lincoln Center drummer Herlin Riley, and percussionist Manolo Badrena.
As French bomber crews prepare an air raid from a base in England, we learn the story of Matrac, a French journalist who opposed the Munich Pact. Framed for murder and sent to Devil's Island, he and four others escape. They are on a ship bound for Marseilles when France surrenders and fascist sympathizer Major Duval tries to seize the ship for Vichy.
Sophie, a young photographer, exchanges her apartment with a student from Marseille. It is February and Marseille seems harsh and closed in the bright sun. Sophie dives into the city, she is alone, she takes photographs. In an auto-repair garage, she asks a young mechanic, Pierre, if he can get her a car. Two days later they meet again and spend the evening in a bar, captivated by the lightness of not knowing anything about each other. Sophie is happy. When she returns to Berlin, she is immediately immersed again in her former life.
Young photographer Sophie exchanges her flat with a student from Marseille. It's February, Marseille seems rough and inaccessible. Sophie is by herself and takes photographs. In a car repair shop she asks the young mechanic Pierre, if he can get her a car. The more she turns herself over to the city, the more impossible her previous life seems to her …