Friday, September 19, 2014


American jazz pianist and composer Ahmed Jamal was born in July 1930. He began playing at the age of three, at seven he started lessons and at 14 he was playing professionally. At this point he was already recognized as a ""coming great"" by no less a talent than Art Tatum. Jamal began touring with George Hudson's Orchestra after graduating from High School in 1948 before moving to Chicago in 1950. He made his first records as 78 RPM discs in 1951 for the Okeh label with The Three Strings (later called the Ahmad Jamal Trio) alongside guitarist Ray Crawford and a succession of bassists. The Three Strings arranged an extended engagement at Chicago's Blue Note, but leapt to fame after performing at the Embers in New York where John Hammond saw the band play and signed them to Okeh. Jamal subsequently recorded for Parrot(1953-55) and Epic(1955) using the piano-guitar-bass lineup. The trio's sound changed significantly when Crawford was replaced with drummer Vernel Fournier in 1957, and the trio released the live album But Not for Me which stayed on the ten best-selling charts for 108 weeks and included Jamal's well known song ""Poinciana"". This four disc compilation brings together all the music Ahmad Jamal released during his first seven years as a recording artist, covering the period 1951 - 1958. Including the sides he made for Okeh, his one album for Parrott, his earliest albums for Epic and several records made for Chess offshoot Argo. Trained in both traditional jazz and European classical style, Ahmad Jamal has been praised as one of the greatest jazz innovators. Following bebop greats like Parker and Gillespie, Jamal entered the world of jazz at a time when speed and virtuosic improvisation were central to the success of jazz musicians as artists. Jamal, however, took steps in the direction of a new movement, later coined ""cool jazz"". He emphasized space and time in his musical compositions and interpretations instead of focusing on the blinding speed of bebop. 

Ahmad Jamal was able to tour North Africa at the start of 1959 following the success of his Live at the Pershing: But Not For Me album, a trip he had wanted to make since converting to Islam in his early 20s. Born of Baptist parents, he was only introduced to Islam while touring Detroit in the 1950s. On returning to the USA his wealth also allowed him to purchase a restaurant and club called The Alhambra in Chicago. The club however lasted for a little more than a year. Much of Jamal's output between the years of 1959 and 1962 were recorded live at a variety of clubs and venues in Chicago and other US cities. One of his stand-out records from this period was the marvelous collection titled 'Ahmed Jamal's Alhambra', released in 1961 and containing performances recorded at his own club that same year, shortly before it closed. The album went on to be one of the trios most successful records. The follow up, another live set this time recorded in San Francisco, 'Ahmad Jamal at The Blackhawk', was equally well received and included his version of Irving Berlin's The Best Thing For You which became a live favorite thereafter. In 1962 The Three Strings disbanded and Jamal moved to New York City where, at the age of 32, he took a three year hiatus. He resumed touring in 1964 when he began playing with bassist Jamil Nasser with whom he performed and recorded until 1972. Now in his eighties, Ahmad Jamal has continued to play numerous tours and release numerous recordings. His most recently released album is Saturday Morning from 2012. This collection contains all of this jazz legend's recorded output as released between 1959 and 1962, featuring both live and studio recordings it is the perfect accompaniment to this label's earlier release 'The Complete Collection 1951 - 1958'. Together these compilations provide the most complete set of recordings by Ahmad Jamal yet to emerge, containing as they do every track released during the first decade of this true master's career. ~ Amazon

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