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Musician

Ahmad Jamal

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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.. In 1994, Mr. Jamal received the American Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The same year he was named a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, where he performed commissioned works with the Assai String Quartet. A CD is available of these works. In 1970, Mr. Jamal performed the title tune by Johnny Mandel for the soundtrack of the film "Mash!"; and in 1995, two tracks from his hit album "But Not For Me" — 'Music, Music, Music', and 'Poinciana' — were featured in the Clint Eastwood film "The Bridges of Madison County". Mr. Jamal's CD entitled "The Essence" features tenor saxophonist George Coleman — Mr. Jamal's first recording made with a horn! Critical acclaim and outstanding sales resulted in two prestigious awards: D'jango D'or (critics) and Cloch (for sales) in France. Its success generated a concert at Salle Pleyel, and a CD has been released "Ahmad Jamal a Paris" (1992) and a second "live" concert by Mr. Jamal in l996 under the same title, unissued except in France and available on the Dreyfus Records on the Internet, Mr. Jamal rightly considers one of his best recordings. Ahmad Jamal's 70th Birthday "live" concert recording Olympia 2000, is known as "The Essence Part III". "The Essence, Part II", featured Donald Byrd on the title track, and on his CD entitled "Nature", Stanley Turrentine is featured on 'The Devil's In My Den', and steel drummer Othello Molineaux augments the trio format. Continuing his recording career, Mr. Jamal released "In Search of" on CD, and his first DVD "Live In Baalbeck". For students of the piano, Hal Leonard Publications has published "The Ahmad Jamal Collection", a collection of piano transcriptions. Mr. Jamal continues to record exclusively for the French Birdology label, and his albums are released on Verve and Atlantic in the United States. Mr. Jamal is an exclusive Steinway piano artist.

Mr. Jamal's 'About My Life' story in his own words:

At three years of age, my wonderful Uncle Lawrence stopped me while I was walking past the piano in my parents' living room. He was playing the piano and challenged me to duplicate what he was doing. Although I had never touched this or any piano, I sat down and played note for note what I had heard. "The rest is history." What a thrilling ride it has been and continues to be. I was born in one of the most remarkable places in the world for musicians and people in the arts - Pittsburgh, PA. At seven years, I was selling newspapers to Billy Strayhorn's family. Billy had already left home; I didn't get to meet him until years later. Following is a partial listing of "Pittsburghers:"

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Article: Interview

Mark de Clive-Lowe: Celebrating Pharoah Sanders

Read "Mark de Clive-Lowe: Celebrating Pharoah Sanders" reviewed by Chris May


It is a curious thing, but among the present day champions of Pharoah Sanders' fundamentally acoustic music are two early adopters of post-production heavy, digitally-enabled, high-tech mutoid jazz: bassist and producer Bill Laswell and keyboardist and broken-beat pioneer Mark de Clive-Lowe, whose Freedom: Celebrating The Music Of Pharoah Sanders (Soul Bank) was released in July 2022. ...

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News: Recording

Or Shovaly Plus Release 'Live at the New Orleans Jazz Museum' — Groove is at the heart of New Orleans-based guitarist’s debut EP

Or Shovaly Plus Release 'Live at the New Orleans Jazz Museum' — Groove is at the heart of New Orleans-based guitarist’s debut EP

It almost doesn’t matter whether guitarist Or Shovaly is composing music, arranging music, playing music, thinking about music, or talking about music. One point remains: Groove is at the heart and the guiding star of Or Shovaly’s music, including and especially the debut recording of his band Or Shovaly Plus, Live at the New Orleans Jazz ...

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Article: Interview

Meeco: Keeping It Real

Read "Meeco: Keeping It Real" reviewed by Chris May


The Berlin-based producer and composer Meeco has a niche but devoted following, built up over a series of romantically inclined and elegant albums released between 2009 and 2014. The discs, which have pronounced Latin flavours, are Amargo Mel (Connector, 2009), Perfume E Caricias (Connector, 2010), Beauty Of The Night (Connector, 2012) and Souvenirs Of Love (Double ...

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Article: Album Review

Mark de Clive-Lowe & Friends: Freedom: Celebrating The Music Of Pharoah Sanders

Read "Freedom: Celebrating The Music Of Pharoah Sanders" reviewed by Chris May


Albums by artists who are best known for their work outside jazz are best approached with caution. Keyboard player Mark de Clive-Lowe's Freedom: Celebrating The Music Of Pharoah Sanders is one such. Before moving to Los Angeles, Clive-Lowe lived in London, where he was prominent in the late 1990s/early 2000s broken beat movement, which, without getting ...

1

Article: Radio & Podcasts

Milestones: Miles Davis Pre 1960 And His Collaborators

Read "Milestones: Miles Davis Pre 1960 And His Collaborators" reviewed by David Brown


This week, a mix to mirror book one of the 1983 Miles Davis biography by Jack Chambers that I'm reading. Two full hours, celebrating the music of Miles and his collaborators pre-1960. Playlist Thelonious Monk “Esistrophy (Theme)" from Live at the It Club-Complete (Columbia) 01:30 Miles Davis Quintet “Milestones" from single (Columbia) 02:20 Lee ...

News: Birthday

Jazz Musician of the Day: Ahmad Jamal

Jazz Musician of the Day: Ahmad Jamal

All About Jazz is celebrating Ahmad Jamal's birthday today! 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 ...

7

Article: Profile

Hazel Scott: Swing and Silence

Read "Hazel Scott: Swing and Silence" reviewed by Jakob Baekgaard


Ahmad Jamal is often credited with creating a new spacious sound in jazz. He had a tingling sense of touch on the piano that let each note ring profoundly and famously inspired Miles Davis to explore the effects of silence and space. It was a sound equally admired and belittled as cocktail jazz because of its ...

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Article: Live Review

Vilnius Mama Jazz Festival 2022

Read "Vilnius Mama Jazz Festival 2022" reviewed by John Sharpe


Vilnius Mama Jazz Festival National Drama Theater Lithuania May 27-29, 2022 Introduction It's a little known fact that Lithuania has more jazz festivals per capita than any other country. Prominent among them is the Mama Jazz Festival, held annually amid the baroque beauty of the capital Vilnius. And it says something ...

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Article: Building a Jazz Library

What Next After Kind of Blue?

Read "What Next After Kind of Blue?" reviewed by Steve Cook


For those dipping a first toe into jazz, the Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) is a common initial purchase or listen for many plausible reasons. Web searches for “best jazz albums of all time," or the like, bring up numerous lists that put it at the top and on newcomers' radars. Prominent placement ...


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