Remembering Jazz Legend Ahmad Jamal

Remembering Jazz Legend Ahmad Jamal

Renowned jazz pianist and bandleader Ahmad Jamal, who was born Frederick Russell Jones in 1930, passed away at his home in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts on April 16. He was 92. Jamal is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the post-war jazz era. Trumpeter Miles Davis is famously quoted as saying, “All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal.”

Jamal rose to prominence in the 1950s and ’60s for his unique style of playing, which contrasted the verbose stylings of bebop at the time, because his minimalist approach and stark use of silence in his compositions appealed to listeners. 

Dolphin Dance,” recorded in the 1970s “Awakening” sessions, is among his best-known compositions. During the sessions for the album, producer Ed Michel recalled in the book “Pressed For All Time,” both Jamal and bassist Jamil Nasser were fasting for Ramadan, only pausing from recording to break fasts “at 6:15.” 

Jamal’s music has been sampled extensively by hip-hop artists, including on rapper Nas’s song “Whose World is This?” which borrowed Jamal’s piano riff from “I Love Music” for its genre-defining chorus. 

Jamal converted to Islam during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s. Shortly after his conversion to Islam, he explained to The New York Times that his decision to change his name stemmed from a desire to “re-establish my original name.”

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