In 1951, Mr. Jamal first recorded 'Ahmad's Blues' on Okeh Records. His arrangement of the folk tune 'Billy Boy', and 'Poinciana' (not his original composition), also stem from this period. In 1955, he recorded his first Argo (Chess) Records album that included 'New Rhumba', 'Excerpts From The Blues', 'Medley' (actually 'I Don't Want To Be Kissed'), and 'It Ain't Necessarily So' —all later utilized by Miles Davis and Gil Evans on the albums "Miles Ahead" and "Porgy and Bess." In his autobiography, Mr. Davis praises Mr. Jamal's special artistic qualities and cites his influence. In fact, the mid-to-late 1950's Miles Davis Quintet recordings notably feature material previously recorded by Mr. Jamal: 'Squeeze Me', 'It Could Happen To You', 'But Not For Me', 'Surrey With The Fringe On Top', 'Ahmad's Blues', 'On Green Dolphin Street' and 'Billy Boy'.
In 1956, Mr. Jamal, who had already been joined by bassist Israel Crosby in 1955, replaced guitarist Ray Crawford with a drummer. Working as the "house trio" at Chicago's Pershing Hotel drummer Vernell Fournier joined this trio in 1958 and Mr. Jamal made a live album for Argo Records entitled "But Not For Me". The resulting hit single and album, that also included 'Poinciana' — his rendition could be considered his "signature". This album remained on the Ten Best-selling charts for 108 weeks — unprecedented then for a jazz album. This financial success enabled Mr. Jamal to realize a dream, and he opened a restaurant/club, The Alhambra, in Chicago. Here the Trio was able to perform while limiting their touring schedule and Mr. Jamal was able to do record production and community work.
Mr. Jamal was born on July 2, 1930, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A child prodigy who began to play the piano at the age of 3, he began formal studies at age 7. While in high school, he completed the equivalent of college master classes under the noted African-American concert singer and teacher Mary Caldwell Dawson and pianist James Miller. He joined the musicians union at the age of 14, and he began touring upon graduation from Westinghouse High School at the age of 17, drawing critical acclaim for his solos. In 1950, he formed his first trio, The Three Strings. Performing at New York's The Embers club, Record Producer John Hammond "discovered" The Three Strings and signed them to Okeh Records (a division of Columbia, now Sony Records).
Mr. Jamal has continued to record his outstanding original arrangements of such standards as 'I Love You', 'A Time For Love', 'On Green Dolphin Street' (well before Miles Davis!), 'End of a Love Affair', to cite a few. Mr. Jamal's own classic compositions begin with 'Ahmad's Blues' (first recorded on October 25, 1951!), 'New Rhumba', 'Manhattan Reflections', 'Tranquility', 'Extensions', 'The Awakening', 'Night Mist Blues' and most recently 'If I Find You Again', among many others..