Ahmad Jamal


Born as Fritz Jones in Pittsburgh 1930, Ahmad Jamal emerged in the 1950s as a popular and highly influential stylist in his own right. He was one of the few pianists during this decade who did not sound like a close copy of Bud Powell. The trio led by Jamal created its own distinct hybrid of Nat King Cole's trio and Erroll Garner's use of musical drama and formal design. His popularity and originality hardly endeared him to the Jazz establishment, who have consistently downgraded him ever since, but Jamal's musical integrity has remained intact to the present day. Never the less Jamal's personal and individual style did gain him some influential admirers within the musical fraternity; Miles Davis and Bill Evans to name but a few.

Jamal began playing professionally in Pittsburgh when he was 11. In the late '40s, he joined George Hudson's orchestra. In 1951, he formed his first trio, the Three Strings, a group with guitarist Ray Crawford and bassist Eddie Calhoun. Israel Crosby took Calhoun's place in 1955 and a year later the trio switched to piano bass drums with Walter Perkins replacing Crawford; Vernell Fournier taking over on drums by 1958. It was this group that cut the million selling But not for Me session live at Chicago's Pershing Lounge in 1958. Jamal was now recognized as the most fashionable pianist in Jazz with all sorts of musicians learning to master the Jamal approach to arrangements of old standards as well as his interesting rhythmic concepts, his interplay and use of space. The trio broke up in 1962, but Jamal continued growing as a pianist (sometimes doubling on electric piano in the 1970s), and he remains one of the most distinctive (and indirectly influential) pianists in jazz.


Recommended recordings
In search of Momentum Dreyfus
Poinciana Sony
Cross Country Tour 1958-1961 GRP
Ahmad's Blues GRP
The Awakening GRP
At the Pershing McA
Chicago revisited Telarc
Live at the Pershing and the Spotlight Club Jazz Hour
Priceless Jazz GRP
Olympia 2000 Dreyfus
I remember Duke, Hoagy and Strayhorn Telarc
The Essence of Ahmad Jamal Polygram
Big Byrd; The Essence Part 2 Polygram
Baia Jazz Time
Remembering Madison County [soundtrack] Warner Bros.
Best Contemporary Jazz Pianists
Kenny Barron
Abdullah Ibrahim
Brad Meldau
Bill Charlap
Keith Jarrett
Chick Corea