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From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.

 

Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?

 

Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.

 

For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.

 

Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.

 

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Ahmad Jamal, jazz pianist with a spare, hypnotic touch, dies at 92

Ahmad Jamal, jazz pianist with a spare, hypnotic touch, dies at 92

His taut and rhythmically supple approach to jazz piano — notably his best-selling recording of “Poinciana” — influenced generations of other musicians who embraced his less-is-more dynamics


Mr. Jamal in 1983. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)

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Ahmad Jamal, whose taut, spare and rhythmically supple approach to jazz piano influenced generations of other musicians who embraced his less-is-more dynamics, died April 16 at his home in Ashley Falls, Mass. He was 92.

The cause was complications from prostate cancer, said his daughter Sumayah Jamal.

In a professional career that began at 14 in his native Pittsburgh, Mr. Jamal proved over seven decades to be a musician of ceaseless growth and invention, a minimalist, classicist and modernist who sought to erase distinctions among musical genres. He was also, in the 1950s, among the first African American performers who publicly adopted the Muslim faith.

Mr. Jamal’s preferred musical format was the trio, and he found critical success with a quiet, understated rhythmic style and dramatic use of silence between notes. His trademark was an ingeniously airy approach to classic pop standards such as “Love for Sale,” “A Gal in Calico” and “Don’t Blame Me” or in his own groove-inflected compositions such as “Ahmad’s Blues,” a song that became part of the jazz repertoire.

His group was the house band for Chicago’s Black-owned Pershing Hotel lounge — a favorite hangout for Billie Holiday and Sammy Davis Jr. — when Mr. Jamal recorded his 1958 commercial breakthrough, “Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: But Not For Me.”

The million-selling album stayed on the Billboard magazine charts for more than 100 weeks, and its centerpiece was an eight-minute rendition of the 1930s pop ballad “Poinciana.” Mr. Jamal’s version — his signature number for the rest of his life — was driven by a Caribbean-flavored, near-hypnotic bass-and-drum pulse from whose rolling contours the pianist set off delicately timed eruptions of chords and clusters.

The most prominent contemporary to embrace Mr. Jamal as a stylistic influence was trumpeter Miles Davis, who recalled in his 1989 autobiography that Mr. Jamal “knocked me out with his concept of space, his lightness of touch, and the way he phrases notes and chords and passages.”

Pianists as diverse as McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton and Bill Charlap also claimed Mr. Jamal as an influence on their approaches to the jazz piano trio. Even Matthew Shipp, among the more idiosyncratic and independent-minded of progressive jazz pianists, referred to Mr. Jamal as “a musical architect of the highest order.”

“You never quite know what the guy’s going to do,” music journalist Jim Macnie wrote in the Village Voice in 2010, amid a new release and concert dates by Mr. Jamal. “Quips fly from his right hand; queries bubble up on the left. They’re linked by a devastating sense of swing, an addiction to group interaction, and a deep trust in melody.”

Buoyed by the success of “But Not for Me,” Mr. Jamal became a household name at a time when jazz was waning and rock was ascendant. He and his ever-changing trio lineup continued a whirlwind of nightclub tours while sometimes chafing against commercial expectations. He approached his goal — extending the boundaries of the piano trio format — with the intensity of a religious scholar.

Although cordial with interviewers, Mr. Jamal projected a studious, almost frosty austerity onstage, displaying no climactic flourishes or colorful traits beyond those woven into his playing. He often seemed remote in performance, totally absorbed in his thematic variations.

“I sometimes get the feeling that Jamal would rather crawl into the piano than off the bench at the conclusion of a performance, so deeply involved is he in his music,” San Francisco Examiner jazz critic Phil Elwood once wrote.

“Maybe so,” Mr. Jamal replied in 1982 to Elwood’s observation. “But I regret that I still don’t have enough time to spend with my instrument. I think I could become more at one with it if I did.”

Frederick Russell Jones, known since childhood as Fritz, was born in Pittsburgh on July 2, 1930. His father worked in the steel mills, and his mother was a domestic worker. He began playing at 3 when an uncle challenged him to imitate him on the family piano.

His formal lessons began four years later, and he was drawn to works by French classical composers Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, who often put spaces of silence between notes. He was steeped in all forms of music at Westinghouse High School, the alma mater of esteemed jazz pianists such as Erroll Garner (“my major, major influence”) and Mary Lou Williams. Fritz Reiner conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at school assemblies.

By the time he was a freshman, Mr. Jamal was jamming at the musicians’ union hall and working in Pittsburgh nightclubs. “I’d do algebra during intermission, between sets,” he told Down Beat magazine. His ambition to attend the Juilliard School was soon eclipsed by his income.

“It was 25 cents here, $6 there,” he explained to The Washington Post in 1983. “When I got up to $60 a week, which was as much as my father was making, I said, well, this is it.”

He came roaring out of Pittsburgh with a reputation for an extraordinary musical vocabulary, able to sight-read Bach as easily as a chart by Count Basie, and found himself in great demand as a sideman.

Newly married, he settled in Chicago in 1950 and converted to Islam from the Baptist faith of his youth following an encounter with bop trumpeter Idrees Sulieman. His faith freed him, he said, from the indignities of racial segregation and the petty cruelties he endured in show business.

In his transition from Fritz Jones to Ahmad Jamal, he told Time magazine, “I haven’t adopted a name. It’s a part of my ancestral background and heritage. I have re-established my original name. I have gone back to my own vine and fig tree.”

He credited his faith with bolstering his musical confidence as he was leading a bass-guitar-piano trio, the Three Strings, and recording for the Okeh label of Columbia Records in the early 1950s. The ensemble, Saturday Review music critic Irving Kolodin wrote at the time, began to make “a quiet noise in jazz circles, attracting attention not by flamboyance and flash but by a low-keyed tonal production.”

With the astronomical success of “But Not For Me,” Mr. Jamal was pulling down $3,000 a week. He purchased a 16-room Chicago mansion, started a nightclub (alcohol-free, per his faith), and engaged in other business ventures from greeting cards to pies. None of these enterprises succeeded, and Mr. Jamal became mired in debt.

His first marriage, to Virginia Wilkins (who took the Muslim name Maryam Mezzan), ended in divorce in 1962, and she later sued him for nonpayment of child support for their daughter, Mumeenah. His own lawyers also sought money from him, according to news reports at the time.

Mr. Jamal moved to New York for a long residency at the Village Gate nightclub. Amid a hectic performing schedule, Mr. Jamal enjoyed acclaim in 1970 for an electrically amplified keyboard version of composer Johnny Mandel’s theme from the movie and TV sitcom “M*A*S*H.” That same year, Mr. Jamal released one of his more significant trio albums, “The Awakening,” with bassist Jamil Nasser and drummer Frank Gant. It was among his many recordings that hip-hop artists such as Jay-Z, Common and Nas later mined for samples in their own mixes.

Critics and audiences began to notice subtle adjustments in Mr. Jamal’s style. By the early 1980s, he was moving away from interpretations of classic pop standards and favoring more original compositions, telling music journalist Eugene Holley Jr. that it was “time for the musician to write his own repertoire rather than to keep resurrecting the things that are in somebody else’s mind.”

Capitalizing on a resurgence of interest in acoustic jazz in the 1990s, Mr. Jamal released several new live albums under the rubric “The Essence,” and his legacy and influence were more fully acknowledged.

“Through the use and space and changes of rhythmic tempo, Jamal invented a group sound that had all the surprise and dynamic variation of an imaginatively ordered big band,” wrote jazz critic Stanley Crouch, who placed Mr. Jamal on an equal footing with Thelonious Monk as an innovator and influence.

Mr. Jamal’s prodigious surge of activity continued unabated into the 21st century with recordings and performances that attested to his inventive powers and still-authoritative command of rhythm. He was declared a Jazz Master in 1994 by the National Endowment for the Arts and won a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2017.

His daughter Mumeenah Counts died in 1979. His second marriage, to Sharifah Frazier, with whom he had Sumayah, ended in divorce. His third marriage, to Laura Hess-Hey, also ended in divorce, but she remained his manager until his death. In addition to Sumayah, survivors include two grandchildren.

In February 2020, six months shy of his 90th birthday, Mr. Jamal sounded to critics as frisky and authoritative as ever in live performance at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. He spoke of a magnetic connection with his instrument, a sensation that neither age nor any other factor could compromise.

“When I pass a piano anywhere, I have to touch it or play it,” Mr. Jamal once told the Boston Globe. “The reward of being a musician is not money. It’s the wonderful, indescribable feeling of knowing you’re performing at your highest level. It’s a spiritual feeling. You can always make money. But you can’t always latch onto your own spirit. Maybe these moments represent the ultimate freedom.

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Wonderful interview of our Pittsburgh Icon! Thanks for posting this.

Death of Iconic Jazz Pianist, Ahmad Jamal, at 92

Story by Daniel Stewart  Monday


American jazz pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal died Sunday at his home in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, at the age of 92 from prostate cancer.

Archivo - El pianista de Jazz Ahmad Jamal - @ FLAGEY BRUSSELS
Archivo - El pianista de Jazz Ahmad Jamal - @ FLAGEY BRUSSELS© Provided by News 360

Over the course of an eight-decade career, Jamal, who began his formal piano studies at age 7, won several awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jazz composer Miles Davis, trumpeter and bandleader, said how the pianist influenced him when he declared: ''All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal,'' reports The New York Times.

BIOGRAPHY OF THE PIANIST Jamal was born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh in July 1930. At the age of three he began to play the piano and, four years later, he began his formal studies. Upon joining the musicians' union at age 14, pianist Art Tatum praised him as having ''a great future''.

In the early to mid-1950s, he led several trios and quartets until he settled into a trio with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier, who released 'At The Pershing: But Not For Me', which is one of the most popular and influential recordings in jazz history.

Later, in the late 1960s, he recorded 'The Awakening', which was widely acclaimed for its originality by jazz standards.

He has also composed music for several film soundtracks and founded several record labels. He released up to three albums a year in the late 1960s and early 1970s, recording more than 60 in his career.

Source: (EUROPA PRESS)



Jazz Pianist Ahmad Jamal Dead at 92


In this article:

Jazz At Lincoln Center 2016 Gala "Jazz and Broadway" Honoring Diana And Joe Dimenna And Ahmad Jamal - Inside - Credit: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Jazz At Lincoln Centerhttps://media.zenfs.com/en/rollingstone.com/a2f1d88dfddd4af3028f63d..."/>
Jazz At Lincoln Center 2016 Gala "Jazz and Broadway" Honoring Diana And Joe Dimenna And Ahmad Jamal - Inside - Credit: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Jazz At Lincoln Center

Ahmad Jamal, the influential jazz pianist whose style influenced generations of musicians for seven decades, died on Sunday, The Washington Post reports. He was 92. His daughter Sumayah Jamal confirmed to Rolling Stone that he died in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts at home after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Jamal began his professional career while still in high school in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and continued to create and influence multiple music genres through his seven-decade career. Originally performing under the name Fritz Jones, he was among the first African American artists who publicly adopted the Muslim faith and began performing under the name Ahmad Jamal in the 1950s.

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Jamal formed his own trio in 1951, which served as the house band for Chicago’s Pershing Hotel lounge. The popular Black-owned venue became the backdrop for his 1958 hit album, Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: But Not for Me.

The live LP reached the top of the charts and stayed there for more than 100 weeks, buoyed by his standout rendition of “Poinciana.” Following the success of the record, he opened his own Chicago club called the Alhambra, where he recorded several albums until it closed in 1961.

He influenced myriad artists from the jazz world and beyond, including trumpeter Miles Davis to pianists McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton, Bill Charlap, and Matthew Shipp. He eschewed genre boundaries, too, as he did in 1970, with his electric keyboard rendition of Johnny Mandel’s theme for “M*A*S*H.”

As hip-hop producers began to plumb the depths of jazz catalogs, a new generation of fans discovered Jamal through a slew of ingenious samples from DJ Premier (Gang Starr’s “Soliloquy of Chaos,”) Pete Rock (M.O.P.’s “Stick to Ya Gunz”) and Ski (Jay-Z’s “Feelin’ It”), among many others. In 1996, J Dilla famously sampled Jamal’s 1974 song “Swahililand” to craft the title track for De La Soul’s “Stakes Is High.”)

Born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1930, Jamal first began playing piano at the age of 3. He later studied under the tutelage of Mary Cardwell Dawson, who went on to found the first Black opera company in the U.S. By the time he was in high school, he was already earning money working gigs at nightclubs.

“It was 25 cents here, $6 there,” he told The Washington Post in 1983. “When I got up to $60 a week, which was as much as my father was making, I said, well, this is it.”

Following his time in Chicago, he moved to New York City, where he had a residency at Village Gate nightclub. He resumed touring in 1964 and in 1965 released the album Extensions. While he established himself with his interpretations of classic pop standards, in the Eighties he began moving toward more original compositions. In the Nineties, he released a series of LPs titled under The Essence.

Among his accolades, Jamal was named Jazz Master by the National Endowment For The Arts in 1994. In 2017, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy.

Ahmad Jamal, measured maestro of the jazz piano, dies at 92

Ahmad Jamal, pictured in 2016.
Rémy Gabalda
/
AFP Via Getty Images
Ahmad Jamal, pictured in 2016.

For most jazz performers, a song is part of a performance. For Ahmad Jamal, each song was a performance. Over the course of a remarkable eight-decade career, Jamal, who passed away Sunday at the age of 92, created stellar recordings both as an ambitious youth and a sagely veteran.

Jamal's death was confirmed by his daughter, Sumayah Jamal. He died Sunday afternoon in Ashley Falls, Mass., after a battle with prostate cancer.

Jamal's influence and admirers spread far and wide in jazz. For instance, Miles Davis found enormous inspiration in his work: In his 1989 autobiography, Miles, the legendary trumpeter said that Jamal "knocked me out with his concept of space, his lightness of touch, his understatement, and the way he phrases notes and chords and passages." Miles went on to record Jamal's "New Rhumba" on his classic 1957 recording Miles Ahead.

His contemporary admirers are just as fervent. Pianist Ethan Iverson, a founding member of the exceptionally popular trio The Bad Plus, said, "All of his pieces are theatrical and contained. In some ways the Bad Plus was an extension of his classic trio."

Pianist Vijay Iyer was just as adamant. "His sense of time is that of a dancer, or a comedian. His left hand stays focused, and his right hand is always in motion, interacting with, leaning on, and shading the pulse.

"He bends any song to his will, always open to the moment and always pushing the boundaries, willing to override whatever old chestnut he's playing in search of something profoundly alive."

Jamal was born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh on July 2, 1930. When he was 3 years old, his uncle challenged him to duplicate what he was playing on the piano, and the youngster actually could. He began formal studies of the piano at the age of 7 and quickly took on an advanced curriculum. He told Eugene Holley Jr. of Wax Poetics in a 2018 interview, "I studied Art Tatum, Bach, Beethoven, Count Basie, John Kirby, and Nat Cole. I was studying Liszt. I had to know European and American classical music. My mother was rich in spirit, and she led me to another rich person: my teacher, Mary Cardwell Dawson, who started the first African-American opera company in the country."

Jamal grew up in a Pittsburgh community that was rich in jazz history. His neighbors included the legendary pianists Earl Hines, Erroll Garner and Mary Lou Williams. As a youth, Jamal delivered newspapers to the household of Billy Strayhorn. When Jamal began his professional career at the age of 14, Art Tatum, an early titan of the keyboard, proclaimed him "a coming great." During a tour stop in Detroit, Jamal, who was born to Baptist parents, converted to Islam and changed his name.

His fluency in European classical music — Jamal disdained the term jazz, preferring American classical music as a descriptor for his work — was a highlight of his style. In a 2001 New York Times article, Ben Waltzer, a pianist and curriculum director at the University of Chicago, noted, "when we listen to his music, fragments from Ravel's 'Bolero' and Falla's 'Ritual Fire Dance' mingle with the blues, standard songs, melodic catch-phrases from bebop, and the 'Marseillaise.'"

This may not seem remarkable today, when most jazz musicians are conservatory-trained and well versed in art music, from Louis Armstrong to Iannis Xenakis and from Laurie Anderson to John Zorn. But Jamal was a youth when there were significant barriers to African Americans entering the academy. "In Pittsburgh, we didn't separate the two schools," he told Waltzer.

Jamal's style went well beyond a diverse range of source material; he expanded the borders and depth of improvisation. "Jazz improvisation is generally understood as a narrative melodic line composed spontaneously in relation to a song's harmonic structure," wrote Waltzer. "Jamal broadened this concept by using recurring riffs, vamps and ostinatos — tropes of big-band jazz that were employed as background accompaniment for featured instrumentalists — not just to frame solos, as many musicians did, but as the stuff of improvisation itself."

In the early and mid-'50s, Jamal led various trios and quartets, before settling into a trio setting with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier. In 1958, they released the landmark jazz recording, At The Pershing: But Not For Me. It is one of the most popular and influential recordings in jazz history. It stayed on the Billboard Top 200 album chart for an astounding 108 weeks.

Iverson said of the title track, "The classic Jamal Trio with Crosby and Fournier is one of the greatest groups of all time. 'But Not For Me' is a perfect three minutes. Literally perfect. There's nothing better."

The trio's version of "Poinciana" sparked the popularity of the recording, and it became a signature tune for Jamal. He told Wax Poetics, "It was a combination of things: Israel Crosby's lines, what I was playing, and Vernel—if you listen to his work on "Poinciana," you'd think it was two drummers!"

Jamal visited Africa in 1959. Upon his return to Chicago, he had a failed venture as a club owner, then took a hiatus from recording in the early '60s. By the middle of the decade, he'd resumed recording and touring. His 1969 album, The Awakening, was widely hailed for its rendering of jazz standards and originals.

His music was found in the soundtracks of movies like M*A*S*H and The Bridges of Madison County. In a 1985 episode of NPR's Piano Jazz, Jamal told host and fellow piano legend Marian McPartland that his favorite recording was "the next one." Then he allowed that the Pershing "was close to perfection." He also said that he continued to focus on ballads. "They are difficult to play," he told her, "it takes years of living to read them properly." In 1994, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowship.

He continued making stellar recordings into the past decade. His 2017 release, Marseille, was noted in the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.

The recording featured all of the hallmarks that made Jamal a great pianist and bandleader, and the drummer Herlin Riley, like Fournier, was from New Orleans. It prompted Iyer to note that Jamal's lineage of New Orleanian drummers — Fournier, Idris Muhammad and Riley — suggests rhythm as a ritual or cultural cornerstone.

Jamal's work continued to impress other pianists. In 2014 Matthew Shipp told NPR's Karen Michel, "His imagination is so deep. One of the joys of listening to him is to see how his fertile imagination interacts with the material he does pick and recombines it into a musical entity that we've never heard. I mean, he is a musical architect of the highest order."

Waltzer added, "innovation in jazz can be subtle. Rather than reaching outward to create an overtly revolutionary sound, Mr. Jamal explored the inner workings of the small ensemble to control, shape and dramatize his music."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ahmad Jamal, influential jazz pianist, dies aged 92

Over a career spanning seven decades, musician was hailed for his ability to transcend genres


Sun 16 Apr 2023 21.13 

Ahmad Jamal, the influential jazz pianist, composer and band leader, has died at the age of 92.

His daughter, Sumayah Jamal, confirmed to the New York Times that the cause of death was prostate cancer.

Embarking on a professional music career from the age of 14, over seven decades Jamal forged a unique sound that leapt over genre boundaries. Minimalism, classical, modernism, pop: Ahmad was sometimes likened to Thelonious Monk in terms of his ability to innovate and influence other musicians: his piano would be sampled by the likes of De La Soul, Jay-Z, Common and Nas. The trumpeter Miles Davis once said: “All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal,” writing in his memoir that his friend had “knocked me out with his concept of space, his lightness of touch, and the way he phrases notes and chords and passages”.


Ahmad Jamal at the North Sea Jazz festival 2011
Ahmad Jamal: 'After a time you discover the Mozart in you'
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Born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh in 1930, Jamal began playing music at three when an uncle challenged him to copy him on the family piano. He devoured “reams of sheet music” in all genres donated by his aunt and began receiving formal training when he was seven, then was composing at the age of 10. He found himself drawn to works by the French classical composers Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. By his early teens he was performing in nightclubs. “I’d do algebra during intermission, between sets,” he once told Down Beat magazine.

After marrying, he settled in Chicago in 1950 and converted to Islam from the Baptist faith of his family, becoming one of the first African American performers to publicly speak of his Muslim faith. Talking to Time magazine about going by the name Ahmad Jamal, he said: “I haven’t adopted a name. It’s a part of my ancestral background and heritage. I have re-established my original name. I have gone back to my own vine and fig tree.”


Jamal Ahmad performs in 2016 at the Marciac jazz festival in France
Jamal Ahmad performs in 2016 at the Marciac jazz festival in France. Photograph: Rémy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images

Jamal performed jazz, which he called “American classical music” all his life, in the house band for Chicago’s Pershing Hotel lounge – a Black-owned favourite of the likes of Sammy Davis Jr and Billie Holiday, and where he recorded his 1958 breakthrough album, Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: But Not For Me. The album sold 1m copies and remained on the Billboard magazine charts for more than 100 weeks, making Jamal a household name when rock’n’roll was on the up and jazz was beginning to wane.

He and his always-rotating lineup continued performing in nightclubs across the US to devoted audiences: Jamal bought a mansion and started his own nightclub, the Alhambra (which served no alcohol, as per his religious beliefs): the club was one in a series of unsuccessful business ventures that eventually left him saddled with debt.

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1962 and he was hospitalised in 1963 after an apparent overdose. He didn’t resume touring and recording until 1964, having moved to New York for a long residency at the Village Gate nightclub.

His keyboard version of the theme from M*A*S*H was critically acclaimed in 1970 and was followed by another significant album, The Awakening, with the bassist Jamil Nasser and the drummer Frank Gant.

“I used to do 20% my own pieces and 80% other people’s; now it’s turned the other way,” he told the Guardian in 2013. “After a certain time you discover the Mozart in you, the Duke Ellington or Billy Strayhorn in you. It takes time to discover yourself. You also have to find and keep players who are in tune with what you’re doing; you have that empathy, the quality of breathing together.”



In the 1980s and 90s, Jamal continued to perform relentlessly and released several live albums, shoring up his reputation as one of the best living jazz performers. He was named Jazz Master in 1994 by the National Endowment for the Arts and won a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2017.

His first daughter Mumeenah Counts died in 1979. He is survived by his third ex-wife and manager, Laura Hess-Hay; Sumayah, his daughter with his second ex-wife; and two grandchildren.

Speaking about his ability to continue performing and touring in his 80s, he told the Guardian: “It’s a divine gift, that’s all I can tell you. We don’t create, we discover – and the process of discovery gives you energy … Rhythm is very important in music, and your life has to have rhythms too.

“You can exercise properly, eat properly – but the most important thing of all is thinking properly. Things are in a mess, and that’s an understatement; so much is being lost because of greed.

“There are very few authentic, pure approaches to life now. But this music is one of them, and it continues to be.”


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