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Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik was one of the first musicians to introduce Arabic music into jazz and the first to use the oud, a pear-shaped, traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument similar to a lute as a jazz instrument. He was born on January 30th 1927 to Sudanese parents in Brooklyn and grew up in the borough’s Arab neighborhood. According the most recent edition of the Rough Guide to Jazz he did not change his name to Ahmed Abdul-Malik in the mid- 50s but was given that name at birth. He started studying music at age 7; first violin then bass, piano and even tuba. His first jobs as a musician were when he was still a teenager and included symphony orchestras and different ethnic weddings. In the mid 1940s he was introduced to the jazz community through his friend Randy Weston and played bass in jazz and r&b bands. His most famous gig was as Thelonious Monk’s bassist. He started experimenting with the oud in the mid 50s and recorded on it with Johnny Griffin and with John Coltrane. He also cut a few records as a leader where he played the instrument. He also appeared on TV shows both as a bop bassist and with his own group playing Middle East influenced jazz on the oud. He headlined the first major African jazz festival in Morocco in 1972 and also toured Latin America. From the 1970s he was on faculty at NYU and at Brooklyn College. In 1984 BMI recognized his work by giving him Pioneer in Jazz. He died on October 2nd 1993 in Long Branch New Jersey. Among his followers are such modern day luminaries as Rabih Abou- Khalil and Anwar Brahim.


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