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The Timeless Influence of Ahmad Jamal
A monster pianist and major influence on Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal was never ranked as an all-time giant of jazz. However, his talent and innovative style have impressed fellow musicians and music buyers alike for decades. And these are the elements that count.
Ahmad Jamal broke new ground in his ability to manipulate space and silence. There is an explosive element in his music that can come out of nowhere. This tension and release is a recognizable trademark for those who understand and appreciate Ahmad's music. Ahmad Jamal never tried to overwhelm his listeners with his awesome technique. The music practitioner will be happy to know that Ahmad was one of the first to break with the tradition of using the right hand emphasis largely established by Bud Powell. His left hand complex chord structures set a standard for those following in his footsteps.
It's even rumored that Miles Davis encouraged his own pianist none other than Red Garland to imitate Ahmad as much as possible. This was truly an extraordinary compliment to Ahmad Jamal. This subtlety in Ahmad Jamal gave many other musicians the cue to allow their own music to breathe.
Such genius often manifests itself at an early age. Ahmad began playing the piano at age three, and began his formal training at the tender age of 7. Four years later he would be performing professionally. At the budding age of 20 Jamal formed his own group, and shortly later was discovered by a Columbia Records talent scout. It's no small wonder that he was signed.
Ponder the thought, if you will, that Ahmad influenced Miles Davis who influenced Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett. One can rightfully say then that their collective influences came indirectly from Ahmad Jamal. And these three mentioned are each household names in the archives of jazz excellence.
It's hard to imagine such extraordinary talent, in that of Ahmad Jamal, not being considered among the all-time greats. This is where one has to set aside the opinions of all others and make that leap of faith. In reality there is no leap needed. Check out the discography of Ahmad Jamal and you'll realize that even a professional opinion is like that other un-mentionable thing: Everyone has one!
If you haven't already done so make this the year of great jazz discovery. If you have never had the opportunity to catch Ahmad Jamal live in concert make the effort to experience as many of his extraordinary recordings as you can. They'll make a wonderful addition to your music archives.