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Ahmad Jamal was born on this date in 1930. He is a Black jazz pianist.
Born Frederick Russell Jones, in Pittsburgh, PA., he has been a professional musician since he was 11. In his early years (the late 1940s) Jamal joined trumpeter George Hudson's orchestra. Born to Baptist parents, he discovered Islam in his early 20s. While touring in Detroit in the 1940s and 1950s, he became interested in Islam and Islamic culture. He converted to Islam and changed his name to Ahmad Jamal in 1950.
The pianist formed his first trio, The Three Strings, in 1951. This trio consisted of piano, guitar and bass. Erroll Garner's melodic technique was an early influence on him. While his crossover success might have buried his reputation in some jazz circles, Jamal's simplicity in his music had a major impact on late 1950s cool jazz.
In 1958, his trio recorded "Ahmad Jamal at The Pershing," which became a huge seller and yielded his notable take on "Poinciana." Miles Davis was an outspoken admirer of Jamal's ease and sense of space. The trumpeter began including Jamal's tunes in his own performances and directed Red Garland to duplicate his sound. Even though Jamal built his reputation on his trio recordings, he has continued to work with different assemblies. In the 1970s, he began experimenting with electronic instruments and has also collaborated with orchestras.
In the 21st century, he continues to tour and record regularly exclusively for the French Birdology label, and his releases are on Verve and Atlantic in the United States. Jamal is an exclusive Steinway piano artist. Now in his eighties, Jamal continues to make numerous tours and recordings. Recently released albums include Saturday Morning (2013), and the CD/DVD release Ahmad Jamal Featuring Yusef Lateef Live at L'Olympia (2014), and Marseille (2017), which features vocals in French.
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York