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Interviews

The Venerable Ahmad Jamal

By Published: March 13, 2004
AAJ: How do you like the newest CD that's out?

Jamal: It's full of energy. I love things that are full of energy. There's a lot of energy and a lot of good things going on. George (Coleman) is playing superbly. I think the world is going to know a little bit more ' they know about George Coleman, but I think the world is going to know a little bit more about George as a result of the release of this CD. He plays superbly. That was the result of a five-week tour. We did Grenada, Spain. And most of them were sold out. There wasn't a seat left at Salle Pleyel.

AAJ: The Sal Playel music will be released maybe next year?

Jamal: Yeah. That's probably going to be released in a compilation, because I didn't release it in the United States. It's also wonderful, wonderful piece of music. I like it. A lot of good solos on it. It's a nice piece of music.

AAJ: What else is on the horizon?

Jamal: Playing a week with a gentleman of the bass, Keter Betts, sharing the bill after 20 or 22 years at Blues Alley in Washington, DC. Dec. 26 to January 31. I'll be going down there to do my annual gig. Then I'm going to Symphony Hall in Chicago. Then a European tour again. Many, many interesting things. Working on the next record, perhaps. Having a lot of fun and enjoying life.

AAJ: Of all the years you've had in the business and all the things you've been through, what would you tell some of the younger ones out there? Any words of advice?

Jamal: The best advice I can give anyone is prepare yourself with options. Well how do we do that, Mr. Jamal? You go and get knowledge. And you learn all the things that you can, so if one area breaks down, you don't get frustrated. In other words, if a fire breaks out, you don't get trampled to death because you only have one exit door. Well how do you do that, Mr. Jamal? You go to school. Prepare yourself for options. If you want to be a performer, see how that breaks down and you learn how to conduct. So you conduct for a while. If you can't find a role in conducting and you've prepared yourself to teach, you can teach for a while. And if you can't find a job in teaching or orchestration, you can write for a while. If you have these options, you can be places because you want to be, not because you have to be. That's the best advice I can give to any young person. Prepare yourself so you have options. So you're not locked in and can't get out.

AAJ: How would they find soul in their playing, and in life? Is there a secret to that?

Jamal: Live according to the best rules. That's how you find soul. Otherwise you're not going to find soul. You have to live according to the rules. You've gotta observe some of the rules, if not all. The more rules you observe in this life, the more soul you're gonna get.

AAJ: And will that come out in the playing?

Jamal: Absolutely. If you don't observe rules, you're not going to come out at all because you're gonna perish somewhere along the way. If we can keep all our wonderful talent here longer, it's better for us and better for the world. A lot of our great, great talents have been destroyed because of the influence of this world. Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Tad Dameron, Fats Navarro, Chet Baker. Because you've gotta observe some of the rules. If you don't follow some of the rules, sometimes you don't even survive. That's the name of the game: develop your spirit and develop all the things that are warranted and are demanded as a result of living.


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