Ahmad Jamal

Ahmad Jamal was born on July 2nd, 1930 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was the home of many artists known the world over for their work and contributions to both European Classical Music and American Classical Music (The term Mr. Jamal prefers for Jazz).

He began playing piano at age 3, the same age Erroll Garner started. Jamal and Garner attended the same elementary and high schools. Mr. Jamal started his formal studies with noted educator, Mary Cardwell Dawson. Ms. Dawson was responsible for the first African American artists joining The Metropolitan Opera Company. When Madame Dawson moved to Washington, DC., Jamal continued his studies with James Miller, a contemporary of Earl Wild, both Pittsburgh natives.

By age 10, Jamal was composing, orchestrating and performing works by Franz Liszt, exploring the music of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Nat Cole, Erroll Garner and a host of music notables. Jamal immersed himself fully in learning the American Song Book. He was proficient at amassing a huge repertoire and caught the attention of his senior Pittsburgh masters. Quickly hired on, he joined the AFof M (American Federation of Musicians) at 14, when the minimum age requirement was 16.

At 17, he left home at the request of the George Hudson Orchestra and began touring the country. The orchestra included Clark Terry and orchestrator Ernie Wilkins. The touring schedule included major theaters throughout the United States; Notably, the historic Apollo Theater in NYC, and The Howard Theater in Washington, DC. Mr. Jamal took the Apollo stage with the orchestra at 18 years of age.

He formed his own group in 1951 and with the help of John Hammond started his recording career with Okeh Records. That career has continued for over six decades and has resulted in one of the most successful recordings in the history of Instrumental music, “The Ahmad Jamal Trio, at The Pershing”. The music was chosen by longtime fan Clint Eastwood for “The Bridges Of Madison County” and featured prominently in “The Wolf Of Wall Street”. It is also used in dance companies all over the world, and continues to make musical history.

Jamal’s myriad awards noted at AhmadJamal.com include: Grammy Lifetime Achievement 2017, The NEA Masters Award, Kennedy Center Legend Award, French Government Awards, Malaysian Awards, Doctor of Music, Honoris Causa, New England Conservatory Of Music, which reads: “Ahmad Jamal, Jazz pianist, one of foremost leaders of small ensembles. An innovative great who drew from and influenced idioms from the big band era to bebop to cool jazz to electronic styles. An American Jazz Master who inspired such important figures as Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie Hancock. Renowned for his exquisite touch, profound grace, and mercurial improvisational choices. For seven decades he’s been sharing his inimitable and unique voice with jazz lovers the world over.”

Ahmad Jamal’s career spans seven decades covering eras of The Art Form, big band, the Parker / Gillespie era, to the electronic age. Jamal is one of the most sampled composers and recording artists in the world. He is still recording and producing artists, and has just released “Jamal Plays Jamal” on his own label, available from www.ahmadjamal.com .

Ahmad Jamal has been a Steinway Artist for over a half century.

Originally published at ahmadjamal.com

Photo credits: ahmadjamal.com