Ahmad Jamal (born Frederick Russell Jones, July 2, 1930) is an American jazz pianist, composer, bandleader and educator. For six decades, he has been one of the most successful small-group leaders in jazz.
Ahmad Jamal (born Frederick Russell Jones, July 2, 1930) is an American jazz pianist, composer, bandleader and educator. For six decades, he has been one of the most flourishing small-group leaders in jazz.
Jamal was born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1930. He began playing piano at the age of three, when his uncle Lawrence challenged him to duplicate what he was doing on the piano. Jamal began formal piano training at the age of seven following Mary Cardwell Dawson, whom he describes as greatly influencing him. His Pittsburgh roots have remained an important part of his identity (“Pittsburgh meant anything to me and it yet does,” he said in 2001) and it was there that he was immersed in the move of jazz artists such as Earl Hines, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner. Jamal plus studied as soon as pianist James Miller and began playing piano professionally at the age of fourteen, at which narrowing he was endorsed as a “coming great” by the pianist Art Tatum. When asked about his practice habits by a critic from The New York Times, Jamal commented that, “I used to practice and practice subsequent to the open open, hoping someone would get grip of and discover me. I was never the practitioner in the suitability of twelve hours a day, but I always thought roughly music. I think not quite music anything the time.”
Jamal began touring with George Hudson’s Orchestra after graduating from George Westinghouse High School in 1948. He associated another touring organization known as The Four Strings, which disbanded like violinist Joe Kennedy Jr. left. In 1950 he moved to Chicago and performed intermittently later than local musicians Von Freeman and Claude McLin, and solo at the Palm Tavern, occasionally joined by drummer Ike Day.
Born to Baptist parents, Jamal discovered Islam in his in the future 20s. While touring in Detroit, where there was a sizable Muslim community in the 1940s and 1950s, he became eager in Islam and Islamic culture. He converted to Islam and tainted his herald to Ahmad Jamal in 1950. In an interview with The New York Times a few years later, he said his decision to regulate his declare stemmed from a want to “re-establish my native name.” Shortly after his conversion to Islam, he explained to The New York Times that he “says Muslim prayers five period a day and arises in times to tell his first prayers at 5 am. He says them in Arabic in keeping taking into consideration the Muslim tradition.”
He made his first chronicles in 1951 for the Okeh label bearing in mind The Three Strings (which would later also be called the Ahmad Jamal Trio, although Jamal himself prefers not to use the term “trio”): the other members were guitarist Ray Crawford and a bassist, at different time Eddie Calhoun (1950–52), Richard Davis (1953–54), and Israel Crosby (from 1954). The Three Strings granted an Elongated engagement at Chicago’s Blue Note, but leapt to fame after interim at the Embers in New York City where John Hammond saying the band achievement and signed them to Okeh Records. Hammond, a wedding album producer who discovered the talents and enhanced the fame of musicians as soon as Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, and Count Basie, also helped Jamal’s trio attract vital acclaim. Jamal behind recorded for Parrot (1953–55) and Epic (1955) using the piano-guitar-bass lineup.
The trio’s unquestionable changed significantly past Crawford was replaced following drummer Vernel Fournier in 1957, and the activity worked as the “House Trio” at Chicago’s Pershing Hotel. The trio released the stimulate album, At the Pershing: But Not for Me, which stayed upon the Ten Best-selling charts for 108 weeks. Jamal’s recording of the competently known song “Poinciana” was first released upon this album.
Perhaps Jamal’s most famous recording and undoubtedly the one that brought him enormous popularity in the late 1950s and into the 1960s jazz age, At the Pershing was recorded at the Pershing Hotel in Chicago in 1958. Jamal played the set afterward bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier. The set list expressed a diverse deposit of tunes, including “The Surrey once the Fringe upon Top” from the musical Oklahoma! and Jamal’s settlement of the jazz standard “Poinciana”. Jazz musicians and listeners alike found inspiration in the At the Pershing recording, and Jamal’s trio was attributed as an integral new building block in the records of jazz. Evident were his unusually minimalist style and his Elongated vamps, according to reviewer John Morthland. “If you’re looking for an objection that amenable mainstream art can give a flattering response radical status at the same time, Jamal is your guide,” said The New York Times contributor Ben Ratliff in a review of the album.
After the recording of the best-selling album But Not For Me, Jamal’s music grew in popularity throughout the 1950s, and he attracted media coverage for his investment decisions pertaining to his “rising fortune”. In 1959, he took a tour of North Africa to question investment options in Africa. Jamal, who was twenty-nine at the time, said he had a curiosity more or less the homeland of his ancestors, highly influenced by his conversion to the Muslim faith. He moreover said his religion had brought him goodwill of mind virtually his race, which accounted for his “growth in the arena of music that has proved entirely lucrative for me.” Upon his reward to the U.S. after a tour of North Africa, the financial execution of Live at the Pershing: But Not For Me allowed Jamal to entrÐ¹e a restaurant and club called The Alhambra in Chicago. In 1962, The Three Strings disbanded and Jamal moved to New York City, where, at the age of 32, he took a three-year hiatus from his musical career.
In 1964, Jamal resumed touring and recording, this time taking into consideration the bassist Jamil Nasser and recorded a extra album, Extensions, in 1965. Jamal and Nasser continued to be active and sticker album together from 1964 to 1972. He also joined forces in imitation of Fournier (again, but by yourself for approximately a year) and drummer Frank Gant (1966–76), among others. Until 1970, he played acoustic piano exclusively. The unconditional album on which he played acoustic piano in the regular sequence was The Awakening. In the 1970s, he played electric piano as well; one such recording was an instrumental recording of “Suicide is Painless,” the theme look from the 1970 film MASH, which was released upon a 1973 reissue of the film’s soundtrack album, replacing the native vocal balance of the vent by The Mash. It was rumored that the Rhodes piano was a present from someone in Switzerland. He continued to play in throughout the 1970s and 1980s, mostly in trios past piano, bass and drums, but he occasionally expanded the outfit to put in guitar. One of his most long-standing gigs was as the band for the New Year’s Eve celebrations at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., from 1979 through the 1990s.
In 1986, Jamal sued critic Leonard Feather for using his former publish in a publication.
Clint Eastwood featured two recordings from Jamal’s But Not For Me album — “Music, Music, Music” and “Poinciana” — in the 1995 movie The Bridges of Madison County.
In his eighties, Jamal continued to make numerous tours and recordings, including albums such as Saturday Morning (2013), the CD/DVD release Ahmad Jamal Featuring Yusef Lateef Live at L’Olympia (2014), and Marseille (2017), which features vocals in French.
Jamal is the main mentor of jazz piano virtuosa Hiromi Uehara, known as Hiromi.
Jamal was in the midst of hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.