Ahmad Jamal

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ahmad Jamal at the Palatia jazz Festival in Bad Dürkheim on July 21, 2011

Ahmad Jamal (born Frederick Russell Jones on July 2, 1930 in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania ) is an American jazz pianist , composer and arranger of African American descent. His name was Frederick "Fritz" Russell Jones before converting to Islam around 1952 . The pianist has a very individual style; for Miles Davis he was "the greatest inspiration."

Live and act

Jamal had piano lessons from the age of four, attended Westinghouse High School and has performed professionally since his youth. First he went on tour with George Hudson and worked in 1949 and 1950 with the Four Strings led by Joe Kennedy, Jr. For decades he has mostly worked in the classical piano trio with bass and drums, but between 1950 and 1955 initially in the drumless trio with Israel Crosby , bass , and Ray Crawford , guitar, (before Oscar Peterson's such trio with Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis from 1952). From 1956 Jamal played with a conventionally cast trio, first with Israel Crosby and later Jamil Nasser as bassist and drummer like Vernell Fournier (partially supplemented by the guitarist Ray Crawford). The album At the Pershing: But Not for Me with the song Poinciana was a million hit in 1958. In 1959 he toured Africa and then Europe several times. In the early 1960s things became quieter for the pianist, who also worked as a club manager and later as a music producer. His longtime bassist James Cammack and drummer Idris Muhammad shaped the trio of the youngest phase, with which Jamal made several guest appearances in Europe between 1998 and 2002 and made live recordings. In some productions, the trio is sometimes supplemented by a show orchestra made up of wind instruments, strings and background singers. The starting material is the Great American Songbook, along with original compositions.

Jamal's association of pop with jazz innovations has given him his good reputation with audiences (US pop charts for decades, up to 3rd place). Music critics ignored him for a long time. Representative recent recordings are Crystal (1987) and Live In Paris (1992).


Ahmad Jamal in Keystone Korner (1980)

According to Jamal, he “always thought orchestral”. His combos - already the guitar trio, which was successful with Poinciana and But Not For Me in the mid-1950s, but also the quartet on Rossister Road (1986, with James Cammack , Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena), which takes up the achievements of fusion music - are among them "Most integrated in jazz history". His music in small ensembles always sounds unmistakable: tension creates “his constant refusal to play his comprehensive technical background, which is almost becoming style.” He has a nuanced touch, “which allows him the finest dynamic differentiations” and uses the pedal very consciously . He plays rhythmically precise and swings safely without syncopating with a very straight rhythm. His rhythm section often plays in twobeat and is interrupted with four-bar interludes and finals, the daytime .

Jamal's works combine elegance and an easy-listening overall impression with independent and daring experiments: Sweet strings and choirs, catchy melodies and rhythms form the apparently catchy surface and packaging material for the pianist's sometimes avant-garde percussive, minimalist, virtuoso or cluster play. These disparate components do not fall apart, but flow into one another. Extensive solos are often missing, in their place there are tightly woven ensemble parts, interspersed with improvisations . The concept aims for broad impact and acceptance on the one hand, and ambitious play with sparkling surprises and challenges on the other.


Miles Davis has repeatedly expressed his respect since the 1950s, and Jamal and his trio continued to influence musicians such as Julian Cannonball Adderley , John Coltrane , Gil Evans and the fusion music of the 1970s. Until the 1970s, critics repeatedly equated the “master of musical economy” (Martin Kunzler) with a bar pianist . Hal Galper , on the other hand, points out that he is "one of the most important forces in contemporary jazz, as important as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington , although he does not get the credit he deserves."

Since the 1970s, his individual style has so consolidated that Jamal is also considered to be “one of the most distinctive sound creators of the moderate jazz piano”. Newer albums such as In Search of Momentum (2002), After Fajr (2004) as well as numerous concerts around the world are now also praised by critics: "Pointed pauses, quick-tempered runs, hard chord setting and motif-pointed obduracy are interwoven with stage eccentricity and the claim to perfection of the distinctive artist personality."

Prizes and awards

In 1994 Jamal was honored with the National Endowment for the Arts with the NEA Jazz Masters Award ; In 1996 he was awarded the French Django d'Or . At the end of 2012, his album Blue Moon was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category.

Discographic notes


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b quot. according to Martin Kunzler : Jazz-Lexikon. Volume 1: A – L (= rororo-Sachbuch. Vol. 16512). 2nd Edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-499-16512-0 , p. 609.
  2. “You're done when you're in the grave” (conversation with Ahmad Jamal), Die Welt , June 27, 2012
  3. a b Martin Kunzler: Jazz Lexicon. Volume 1: A – L (= rororo-Sachbuch. Vol. 16512). 2nd Edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-499-16512-0 , pp. 609ff.
  4. ^ Ian Carr , Digby Fairweather , Brian Priestley : Rough Guide Jazz. The ultimate guide to jazz music. 1700 artists and bands from the beginning until today. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 1999, ISBN 3-476-01584-X .
  5. Ralf Dombrowski, in: Wolf Kampmann (Ed.), With the assistance of Ekkehard Jost : Reclams Jazzlexikon . Reclam, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-15-010528-5 , p. 264.
  6. ^ Grammy Nominations Announced (2012) in JazzTimes


  1. for example on the album Crystal
  2. He often plays chords with both hands, alternating between two octaves. He plays rhythmically percussive organ points in the middle register. He seldom sets chords with his left hand to accompany a single single-note melody in his right. He often leads the whole melody in chords, but it only sounds a little like playing block chords . He also creates parallel scales with both hands at intervals. He also rarely plays the usual jazz chord changes such as blues or rhythm changes. The sequence of the chords seems to follow a tonal motivation. For example, if the bass in the typical trio piece falls into the walking bass , it can happen that it does not set any accompanying chords at all.