Ahmad Jamal

Pianist, composer (born Frederick Russell Jones in 1930)

Virtuoso pianist since he was a child in Pittsburgh, the young Jones studied the grand masters’ partitions, whereas it was jazz or classical music (Ellington, Liszt, Gershwin, Bach, Tatum…) and became a professional musician when he was eleven thanks to his unique touch.

In 1952, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Ahmad Jamal. In 1958, his album But Not For Me became the greatest commercial success in the history of jazz. Recorded at the Pershing in Chicago, with a beautiful version of Ponciana, this album would influence all of the generations of pianists to come. Miles Davis was fascinated by the sense of time and space shown by the trio. During fours years of absolute grace, between 1958 and 1962, with Israel Crosby (double bass) and Vernell Fournier (drums), Ahmad Jamal would invent a music coming from the silences, a breathing in fusion.

In 1962, he moved to New York to study at the Julliard School, recorded for the label Cadet and put up trios that would not entirely satisfy him. He began a second cure of silence in 1969 and would enter the 1970’s freed from the pressure of success. He opened his own label, the 20th Century, and started the 1980’s with three recordings in one year and with a contract with Atlantic. Yet, he had to wait 1992 when Jean-François Deiber, a French producer, and saw his career being brought back to the top. He multiplied the projects with drummers almost always from New Zealand and his trio turned into a quartet with the addition of a percussionist: Manolo Badrena. Between two silences, rhythm!

Six landmark dates in the life of Ahmad Jamal

1950  - moved to Chicago and started his first trio, The Three Strings (piano-guitar-double bass) with Ray Crawford and Eddie Calhoun
1958  - started "the" trio with Israel Crosby (double bass) and Vernel Fournier (drums)
1961  - closed his club in Chicago, the Alhambra, exhausted by the daily management
1970  - recorded "The Awakening" for Impulse
1992  - his career was given a fresh start thanks to French producer Jean-François Deiber on the label Birdology
1995  - birth of "The Essence" trio, he welcomed saxophonist George Coleman and trumpet player Donald Byrd