Remembering pianist and NEA Jazz Grasp Ahmad Jamal : NPR

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Jamal was born in Pittsburgh, broke by together with his small group music in Chicago within the Fifties, and recorded scores of data by 2016 — a 65-year recording profession. He died April 16.



TERRY GROSS, HOST:

That is FRESH AIR. Pianist Ahmad Jamal died on April 16 at age 92. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, broke by together with his small-group music in Chicago within the Fifties and recorded scores of data by 2016, a 65-year recording profession. Here is our jazz critic, Kevin Whitehead, with a glance again on Jamal’s profession.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL TRIO’S “THE SURREY WITH THE FRINGE ON TOP”)

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Ahmad Jamal’s first recording, “The Surrey With The Fringe On High,” Chicago, 1951. The pianist’s status had its ups and downs through the years. Early on, some of us dismissed that trio for making fussy, glorified cocktail music. These days, we reward Jamal’s economic system and dramatic shifts in density and quantity. Miles Davis testified to Jamal’s affect on his personal understatement and use of house and silence. Miles additionally picked up on the pianist’s manner of tweaking a tune’s type with little interludes and extensions. That stuff might make Ahmad Jamal’s music sound a bit fussy. He heard his trios as miniature orchestras.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL TRIO’S “SLAUGHTER ON 10TH AVENUE”)

WHITEHEAD: “Slaughter On tenth Avenue,” 1955. Ahmad Jamal’s subsequent section received him wider acclaim. He swapped out Ray Crawford’s guitar for drums in a extra typical lineup. A 1958 stay album recorded in Chicago’s Pershing Resort lounge yielded his hit model of the 1936 Latin tune “Poinciana.” It was Jamal’s bread-and-butter track ever after and a lifesaver for the Argo label and its dad or mum, Chess Information.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL’S “POINCIANA”)

WHITEHEAD: With newfound success, Ahmad Jamal opened his personal Chicago membership. However as a religious Muslim, he did not promote alcohol, and the place quickly folded. He stored a decrease profile for just a few years. However some lately unearthed mid-’60s recordings from Seattle verify his outdated virtues have been intact. The dramatic turnabouts and sudden large gestures, playful quotations from different tunes and a strong sense of swing.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL’S “ALL OF YOU”)

WHITEHEAD: Within the late Sixties, Ahmad Jamal’s status once more started to wane as he made albums with choirs, strings and electrical piano. One of many first jazz concert events I ever noticed, circa 1973, stays one of many oddest. For the primary set, Jamal performed his present single, the theme from “MASH,” for 45 minutes. The second set, he did it once more.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL’S “THEME FROM MASH”)

WHITEHEAD: Within the Eighties when digital recording and compact discs got here in, Ahmad Jamal, like different jazz greats, rerecorded and up to date just a few outdated favorites.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL’S “THEME FROM MASH”)

WHITEHEAD: Miles Davis, in his 1989 autobiography, made a lot of Ahmad Jamal’s optimistic affect. And within the 90s, the pianist’s fortunes took a everlasting upswing. The NEA declared him a jazz grasp in 1994, and he labored and recorded steadily. By alternative, he solely performed together with his personal combos. However now, on uncommon events, a saxophonist would possibly visitor in live performance. Lastly, we might hear Jamal backing a horn participant whereas sounding just about the way in which he does out entrance. Right here he’s with George Coleman in 2000.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL’S “NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES”)

WHITEHEAD: Ahmad Jamal did not take it straightforward. In later years, if something, his music received funkier and extra expansive, his piano enjoying extra two-fisted, the loud components extra boisterous. Taking the lengthy view, we will hear Jamal within the lineage of nice Pittsburgh jazz pianists alongside Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Strayhorn, Erroll Garner, Sonny Clark and others. Perhaps it was the iron within the water. Ahmed Jamal’s profession reminds us there isn’t any one option to play jazz. He confirmed us just a few of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF AHMAD JAMAL’S “BACK TO THE FUTURE”)

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead is the creator of the guide “Play The Means You Really feel: The Important Information To Jazz Tales On Movie.” And he writes for Level of Departure and the Audio Beat.

Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my visitor can be doula Vicki Bloom, who offers help for folks throughout childbirth, abortion and miscarriage. She focuses on girls who’re poor or from marginalized communities. She’s been doing this work in New York Metropolis since 2010. I hope you may be part of us.

FRESH AIR’s government producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director is Audrey Bentham. Our engineer as we speak is Adam Staniszewski. Our interviews and opinions are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Susan Nyakundi. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the present. I am Terry Gross.

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