Ahmad Jamal Biography
Ahmad Jamal (born Frederick Russell Jones on July 2, 1930) is a highly-regarded American jazz pianist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began using the name 'Ahmad Jamal' after his conversion to Islam around 1952. He is also a distant cousin of Malcolm X.
Jamal was one of Miles Davis's favorite pianists and was a key influence on the trumpeter's "First Great Quintet" (featuring John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums). Davis had long admired Jamal's use of space and dynamics.
Jamal scored a major hit in his version of Poinciana, recorded while live on tour from The Pershing nightclub in Chicago. His style has changed steadily over time - from the lighter, breezy style heard on his 1950s sides to the funk + Caribbean stylings of the 1970s and onto the large open voicings and bravura-laden playing of the nineties. Jamal has always been distinctive however for his use of space, his dramatic crescendos, and for a very staccato orientation with chords.
In addition to being an excellent pianist, Jamal is also very adept with both the Rhodes electric piano and the Wurlitzer 200 electric piano.
For a time in the 1960s and '70s Jamal ran his own nightclub in Chicago called "The Alhambra".
Ahmad Jamal, while dismissed early in his career as a cocktail stylist, has since gone on to be recognized as one of the all-time greatest jazz pianists.
Since the 1980s Jamal has been regularly touring the major clubs of the United States and the large European jazz festivals. He is generally accompanied by bassist James Cammack and drummer Idris Muhammad. Since the 1996 release of Big Byrd: The Essence, part 2, Jamal's first album to feature saxophone, he has also performed regularly with saxophonist George Coleman.
Clint Eastwood featured two recordings from Jamal's album But Not For Me — "Music, Music, Music" and "Poinciana" — in the 1995 movie The Bridges of Madison County.