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Ahmad Jamal

One of the most individualistic pianists, composers, and arrangers of his generation, Ahmad Jamal's disciplined technique and minimalist style had a huge impact on trumpeter Miles Davis, and Jamal is often cited as contributing to the development of cool jazz throughout the 1950s. Though Jamal was a highly technically proficient player, well-versed in the gymnastic idioms of swing and bebop, he chose to play in a more pared down and nuanced style. Which is to say that while he played with the skill of a virtuoso, it was often what he chose not to play that marked him as an innovator. Influenced by such pianists as Errol Garner, Art Tatum, and Nat King Cole, as well as big-band and orchestral music, Jamal developed his own boundary-pushing approach to modern jazz that incorporated an abundance of space, an adept use of tension and release, unexpected rhythmic phrasing and dynamics, and a highly melodic, compositional style.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 2, 1930, Jamal was a child prodigy and began playing piano at age 3, discovered by his uncle. By the time he was 7 years old, Jamal was studying privately with Mary Cardwell Dawson, the founder of the National Negro Opera Company. An accomplished musician by his teens, Jamal performed regularly in the local jazz scene and in 1949 toured with George Hudson's Orchestra. After leaving Hudson, he joined swing violinist Joe Kennedy's group the Four Strings, with whom he stayed until Kennedy's departure around 1950.

After leaving the Four Strings, Jamal relocated to Chicago, where he formed his own group, the Three Strings with bassist Eddie Calhoun and guitarist Ray Crawford. The precursor to the later Ahmad Jamal Trio, the Three Strings would, at different times, include bassists Richard Davis and Israel Crosby. During a stint in New York City, the Three Strings caught the ear of legendary Columbia record exec and talent scout John Hammond who signed the group to the Columbia subsidiary Okeh in 1951. During this time, Jamal released several influential albums including Ahmad Jamal Trio Plays (also known as Chamber Music of the New Jazz ) on Parrot (1955), The Ahmad Jamal Trio on Epic (1955), and Count 'Em 88 on Argo (1956). Some of the landmark songs recorded during these sessions included "Ahmad's Blues" and "Pavanne," both of which had a profound impact on Miles Davis, who later echoed the spare, bluesy quality of Jamal's playing on his own recordings.

In 1958, Jamal took up a residency in the lounge of the Pershing Hotel in Chicago. Working with bassist Crosby and drummer Vernell Fornier, Jamal recorded the seminal live album, Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: But Not for Me. Comprised primarily of jazz standards, including his definitive version of the buoyant Latin number "Poinciana," the album showcased Jamal's minimalist phrasing and unique approach to small group jazz, emphasizing varied dynamics and nuanced shading as opposed to the high energy freneticism commonly associated with jazz of the '40s and '50s.

Though somewhat misunderstood by critics at the time who did not fully appreciate the inventive qualities of Jamal's playing, the album proved a commercial success and remained on the Billboard album charts for over two years -- a rarified achievement for a jazz musician of any generation.

The smash success of Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: But Not for Me raised the musician's profile and allowed him to open his own club and restaurant, The Alhambra, in Chicago in 1959. During this time, Jamal released several albums on the Argo label including Ahmad Jamal Trio, Vol. 4 (1958), Ahmad Jamal at the Penthouse (1960), Happy Moods (1960), Ahmad Jamal's Alhambra (1961), and All of You (1961). Unfortunately, The Alhambra closed in 1961. The following year, Jamal disbanded his trio, moved to New York City and took a two year hiatus from the music industry.

In 1964, Jamal returned to performing and recording. Working with a new version of his trio that included bassist Jamil Nasser and drummer Frank Gant, with whom he would work until 1972, Jamal recorded several more albums for Argo (later renamed Cadet) including Naked City Theme (1964), The Roar of the Greasepaint (1965), and Extensions (1965), Rhapsody (1966), Heat Wave (1966), Cry Young (1967), and The Bright, the Blue and the Beautiful (1968). Also in 1968, Jamal made his Impulse Records debut with the live album Ahmad Jamal at the Top: Poinciana Revisited. This was followed by several more Impulse releases including The Awakening (1970), Freeflight (1971), and Outertimeinnerspace (1972), both of which culled tracks from his appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1971. These albums found Jamal moving toward an expansive, funk-infused style, sometimes playing a Fender Rhodes electric keyboard. Also during the '70s, Jamal moved to the 20th Century label and continued to release a steady stream of albums that attracted both hardcore jazz and crossover audiences. Of his '70s albums, both Genetic Walk (1975) and Intervals (1979) made the R&B charts.

The '80s continued to be a productive time for Jamal, who kicked the decade off with such albums as Night Song on Motown (1980) and Live in Concert Featuring Gary Burton (1981). After signing with Atlantic, Jamal released several well-received albums that found him returning to his classic, acoustic small group sound including Digital Works (1985), Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 1985 (1985), Rossiter Road (1986), Crystal (1987), and Pittsburgh (1989).

The '90s also saw a resurgence in interest and acclaim for Jamal, who was awarded the American Jazz Master Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994. Though he never stopped interpreting standards, Jamal utilized his own compositions more and more as the decades passed. During this period, he delivered such albums as Chicago Revisited: Live at Joel Segal's Jazz Showcase on Telarc (1992), Live in Paris '92 on Verve (1993), I Remember Duke, Hoagy & Strayhorn on Telarc (1994), as well as a handful of superb releases for Birdology including The Essence, Pt. 1 (1995), Big Byrd: The Essence, Pt. 2 (1995), and Nature: The Essence, Pt. 3 (1997).

In 2000, Jamal celebrated his 70th birthday with the concert album L'Olympia 2000 (2001), which featured saxophonist George Coleman. He followed up with In Search of Momentum (2003), After Fajr (2005), It's Magic (2008), A Quiet Time (2010), and Blue Moon: The New York Session/The Paris Concert (2012). In 2013, Jamal released the album Saturday Morning: La Buissone Studio Sessions, featuring bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Herlin Riley. Also in 2013, Jamal opened Lincoln Center's concert season by performing live with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. ~ Matt Collar
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Ahmad Jamal Live In Marciac, August 5th 2014 (Live)

1. Sunday Afternoon (Live)

2. The Shout (Live)

3. Dynamo (Live)

4. The Gypsy (Live)

5. Strollin' (Live)

6. Silver (Live)

7. All Of You (Live)

8. Morning Mist (Live)

9. Blue Moon (Live)

10. Autumn Rain (Live)

x

Track List: Rhumba No. 2

2. Raincheck

3. For All We Know

4. Excerpt From The Blues

5. Little Old Lady

6. You'd Be So Easy To Love

8. Rhumba No. 2

9. I'll Never Stop Loving You

10. Speak Low

11. Ivy

12. You Don't Know What Love Is

14. Poinciana (Live)

15. Tater Pie

18. This Can't Be Love

x

Track List: Jazz For A Lazy Day

1. Love For Sale

2. Poinciana

3. Ahmad's Blues

4. They Can't Take That Away From Me

5. Beat Out One

7. New Rhumba

8. Jim Loves Sue

9. It's Easy To Remember

10. Aki And Ukthay

11. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

12. I Get A Kick Out Of You

13. Maryam

14. Black Beauty

15. On Green Dolphin Street

16. All Of You

17. Volga Boatman

18. Woody 'N You

19. There Is No Greater Love

x

Track List: On Green Dolphin Street

1. Tangerine

2. Ivy

3. Never Never Land

4. Comme Ci, Comme Ça

5. Ahmad's Blues

6. Sophisticated Gentleman

7. Seleritus

8. I Like To Recognize The Tune

9. I'm Alone With You

10. Maryam

11. On Green Dolphin Street

12. How About You?

13. Volga Boatman

14. I Just Can't See For Looking'

15. Beat Out One

16. Easy To Remember (2014)

17. I Wish I Knew

18. Spring Will Be A Little Bit Late This Year

19. Jim Loves Sue

20. All Of You (Live Version)

21. My Funny Valentine

22. You're Blase

23. Star Eyes

24. What Is This Thing Called Love?

25. Like Someone In Love

26. Falling In Love With Love

27. The Best Thing For You

28. April In Paris

29. The Second Time Around

30. Darn That Dream (Live)

31. On Green Dolphin Street (Alternate Version)

32. Night Mist Blues

33. We Live In Two Different Worlds

x

Track List: Let's Fall In Love

1. Let's Fall In Love (Live At The Spotlite)

2. Autumn Leaves (Live At The Spotlite)

3. This Can't Be Love (Live At The Spotlite)

4. Seleritus (Live At The Spotlite)

5. Old Devil Moon (Live At The Spotlite)

6. Ahmad's Blues (Live At The Spotlite)

7. Ivy (Live At The Spotlite)

8. Tater Pie (Live At The Spotlite)

9. Aki And Ukthay (Live At The Spotlite)

10. You Don't Know Wat Time It Was (Live At The Spotlite)

11. So Beats My Heart For You (Live At The Spotlite)

12. I Didn't Know What Time It Was (Live At The Spotlite)

13. Our Delight (Live At The Spotlite)

14. A Gal In Calico (Live At The Spotlite)

15. It Could Happen To You (Live At The Spotlite)

16. Snow Fall (Live At The Spotlite)

17. We Kiss In The Shadow (Live At The Spotlite)

18. Love For Sale (Live At The Spotlite)

19. Sweet And Lovely (Live At The Spotlite)

20. The Party's Over (Live At The Spotlite)

21. Willow Weep For Me (Live At The Spotlite)

22. Autumn Leaves (Live At The Spotlite)

23. Isn't It Romantic? (Live At The Spotlite)

24. The Breeze And I (Live At The Spotlite)

25. Broadway (Live At The Spotlite)

x

Track List: Saturday Morning

1. Back To The Future

2. I'll Always Be With You

3. Saturday Morning

4. Edith's Cake

5. The Line

6. I'm In The Mood For Love

7. Firefly

8. Silver

9. I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good

10. One

11. Saturday Morning

x

Track List: Saturday Morning (Reprise)

1. Saturday Morning (Reprise)

x

Track List: Blue Moon

1. Autumn Rain

2. Blue Moon

3. Gypsy

4. Invitation

5. I Remember Italy

6. Laura

7. Morning Mist

8. This Is The Life

9. Woody'n You

x

Track List: Poinciana Revisited / Freeflight

1. Have You Met Miss Jones

2. Poinciana

3. Lament

4. Call Me

5. Theme From Valley Of The Dolls

6. Frank's Tune

7. How Insensitive

8. Introduction

9. Effendi

10. Dolphin Dance

11. Manhattan Reflections

12. Poinciana

x

Track List: Ahmad Jamal: 20 Best Of… (Live)

1. Poinciana (Live)

2. Folks Who Live On The Hill

3. The Good Life

4. Baia

5. People

6. Waltz For Debby

7. What's New

8. Woody 'N You (Live)

9. No Greater Love

10. Moonlight In Vermont

11. Surrey With The Fringe On Top (Live)

12. But Not For Me (Live)

13. My Funny Valentine

14. Autumn In New York

15. April In Paris

16. The Best Thing For You

17. Falling In Love With Love

18. Like Someone In Love

19. Music, Music, Music

20. Beautiful Love

x

Track List: The Best Of

1. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

2. All The Things You Are

3. Poinciana

4. But Not For Me

5. It's You Or No One

6. Woody'n You

7. I'll Remember April

8. They Can't Take That Away From Me

9. There Is No Greater Love

10. Poor Butterfly

11. My Funny Valentine

12. What's New

13. It Might As Well Be Spring

14. Gone With The Wind

15. Too Late Now

17. Cherokee

18. Billy Boy

19. Moonlight In Vermont

x

Track List: 3 Original Album Classics

1. Bellows (Live In Paris 1996)

2. Patches (Live In Paris 1996)

3. Autumn Leaves (Live In Paris 1996)

4. Devil'S In My Den (Live In Paris 1996)

5. There's Lull In My Life (Live In Paris 1996)

6. In Search Of

7. Should I

8. Excerpts From I'll Take The 20

9. Island Fever

10. I've Never Been In Love Before

11. Where Are You

12. Where Are You Now

13. You Can See

14. Perfidia (In Search Of...)

15. I'll Always Be With You

16. Dynamo

17. Swahililand (It's Magic)

18. Back To The Island

19. It's Magic

20. Wild Is The Wind/Sing

21. The Way You Look Tonight

22. Arabesque

23. Papillon

24. Fitnah

25. Fantastic Vehicle

26. Our Delight

27. Poor Pierrot

x

Track List: A Quiet Time

1. Paris After Dark

2. The Love Is Lost

3. Flight To Russia

4. Petry

5. Hi-Fly

6. My Inspiration

7. After Jalc (Jazz At Lincoln Center)

8. A Quiet Time

9. Tranquility

10. The Blooming Flower

11. I Hear A Rhapsody

x

Track List: Portfolio Of Ahmad Jamal

Disc 1

1. Ole Devil Moon

2. Seleritus

3. It Could Happen To You

4. Ivy

5. Tater Pie

6. This Can't Be Love

7. Autumn Leaves

8. Ahmad's Blues

Disc 2

1. Let's Fall In Love

2. Aki Ukthay 'Brother And Sister'

3. You Don't Know What Love Is

4. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

5. So Beats My Heart For You

6. Gal In Calico

7. Our Delight

x

Track List: It's Magic

1. Dynamo

2. Swahililand

3. Back To The Island

4. It's Magic

6. The Way You Look Tonight

7. Arabesque

8. Papillon

9. Fitnah

x

Track List: Poinciana: One Night Only

1. Poinciana (Live)

2. Medley: I’ll Take Romance / My Funny Valentine (Live)

3. Like Someone In Love (Live)

4. Falling In Love With Love (Live)

5. The Best Thing For You (Live)

6. April In Paris (Live)

7. The Second Time Around (Live)

8. Surrey With The Fringe On Top (Live)

9. Moonlight In Vermont (Live)

10. Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In) (Live)

11. No Greater Love (Live)

12. Woody 'N You (Live)

13. What's New? (Live)

14. The Good Life (Live)

15. Autumn In New York (Live)

16. I've Never Been In Love Before (Live)

x

Track List: Live At Midem

1. Introduction

2. Morning Of The Carnival

3. One

4. Bogota

5. Tones For Joan's Bones

6. Autumn Leaves

x

Track List: The Legendary Okeh & Epic Recordings

1. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

2. Will You Still Be Mine

3. Ahamd's Blues

4. A Gal in Calico

5. Aki And Ukthay

6. Billy Boy

7. Black Beauty

8. Love For Sale

9. Something To Remember You By

10. Poinciana

11. Don't Blame me

12. Autumn Leaves

13. They Can't Take That Away from me

14. Old Devil Moon

15. It's Easy To Remember

16. Squeeze Me

17. Crazy He Calls Me

18. Pavanne

19. Perfidia

20. Rica Pulpa

21. The Donkey Serenade

x

Track List: Rossiter Road

1. Milan

2. If I Find The Way

3. Without You

4. Acorn

5. Yellow Fellow

6. Acorn

7. Winter Snow

8. Rossiter Road

x

Track List: After Fajr

1. I'm Old Fashioned

2. After Fajr

3. Milan

4. Yours Is My Heart Alone

5. Swahililand

6. My Heart Stood Still

7. Time On My Hands

8. Topsy Turvy

9. Manhattan Reflections

x

Track List: In Search Of

1. In Search Of

2. Should I

3. Excerpts From I'll Take The 20

4. Island Fever

5. I've Never Been In Love Before

6. Where Are You

7. Where Are You Now

8. You Can See

9. Perfidia

10. I'll Always Be With You

x

Track List: The Essence, Pt. 1

1. Flight

2. Toulouse

3. The Essence

4. Lover Man

5. Catalina

6. Autumn Leaves

7. Street Of Dreams

8. Bahia

x

Track List: Olympia

1. Night Has A Thousand Eyes

3. Autumn Leaves

5. Appreciation

x

Track List: Encore (Live)

1. Waltz For Debbie (Live)

2. Folks Who Live On The Hill (Live)

3. People (Live)

4. Baia (Live)

5. It's The Good Life (Live)

6. Autumn In New York (Live)

7. I've Never Been In Love Before (Live)

x

Track List: Nature: The Essence Part III

1. If I Find You Again (LP Quartet Version)

2. Like Someone In Love

3. Chaperon

4. Devil's In My Den

5. And We Were Lovers

6. Fantastic Vehicle

7. The End Of A Love Affair

8. Cabin In The Sky

9. If I Find You Again (LP Duet Version)

x

Track List: Priceless Jazz 19: Ahmad Jamal

1. New Rhumba

2. On Green Dolphin Street

3. Poinciana (Live)

4. The Best Thing For You (Live At The Blackhawk)

5. Night Mist Blues (Live At The Blackhawk)

6. Raincheck

7. Effendi

8. Concern

9. Misty

10. Whisper Not

x

Track List: I Remember Duke, Hoagy And Strayhorn

1. My Flower

2. I Got It Bad

3. In A Sentimental Mood

4. Ruby

5. Don't You Know I Care

6. Prelude To A Kiss

7. Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me

8. Chelsea Bridge

9. I Remember Hoagy

10. Skylark

11. Never Let Me Go

12. Goodbye

x

Track List: Live In Paris (1992)

1. The Tube (Live In Paris)

2. Alone Together / Laura / Wild Is The Wind (Live In Paris)

3. Caravan (Live In Paris)

4. Easy Living (Live In Paris)

5. Acorn (Live In Paris)

6. Dreamy (Live In Paris)

7. Appreciation (Live In Paris)

8. Look For The Silver Lining (Live In Paris)

9. The Aftermath (Live In Paris)

x

Track List: Chicago Revisited: Live At Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase

1. All The Things You Are

2. Daahoud

3. Tater Pie

4. Bellows

5. Blue Gardenia

6. Dance To The Lady

7. Be My Love

8. Where Are You

9. Lullaby Of Birdland

x

Track List: Poinciana (Portrait/Columbia)

1. Old Devil Moon

2. Ahmad's Blues

3. Poinciana (October 25, 1951)

4. Billy Boy

5. Will You Still Be Mine

6. Pavanne

7. Crazy He Calls Me

8. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

9. Aki And Ukthay

10. Slaughter On 10th Avenue

11. A Gal In Calico

12. It's Easy To Remember

x

Track List: Pittsburgh

1. Pittsburgh

2. Bellows

3. Mellowdrama

4. Foolish Ways

5. Divertimento

6. Cycles

7. Fly Away

8. Apple Avenue

x

Track List: Crystal

1. Quest For Light

2. Arabesque

3. Avo

4. Piano Solo 11

5. For My Daughter

6. Perugia

7. The Last Day

8. Crystal

9. Swahililand (1987)

10. The Canteen

x

Track List: Live At The Montreal Jazz Festival 1985

1. Yellow Fellow

2. Make Someone Happy (live)

3. Acorn

4. Crossroads

5. Rossiter Road

6. 'Round Midnight (live)

7. Footprints (live)

8. Ebony

x

Track List: Digital Works

1. Poinciana

2. But Not For Me

3. Midnight Sun

4. Footprints

5. Once Upon A Time

6. One

7. La Costa

8. Misty

9. Theme From M.A.S.H.

10. Biencavo

11. Time For Love

12. Wave

x

Track List: Outertimeinnerspace (Live)

1. Spoken Introduction (Live)

2. Bogota (Live)

3. Extensions (Live)

x

Track List: The Awakening

1. The Awakening

2. I Love Music

3. Patterns

4. Dolphin Dance

5. You're My Everything

6. Stolen Moments

7. Wave

x

Track List: Tranquility

1. I Say A Little Prayer

2. The Look Of Love

3. When I Look In Your Eyes

4. Illusions Opticas

5. Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You

6. Emily

7. Tranquility

8. Free Again

9. Manhattan Reflections

x

Track List: Happy Moods

1. Little Old Lady

2. For All We Know

3. Pavanne

4. Excerpt From The Blues

5. You'd Be So Easy To Love

6. Time On My Hands

7. Raincheck

8. I'll Never Stop Loving You

9. Speak Low

10. Rhumba No. 2

x

Track List: At The Pershing-But Not For Me

1. But Not For Me (Live at the Pershing)

2. Surrey With The Fringe On Top (Live at the Pershing)

3. Moonlight In Vermont (Live at the Pershing)

4. (Put Another Nickel In) Music! Music! Music! (Live at the Pershing)

5. No Greater Love (Live at the Pershing)

6. Poinciana (Live at the Pershing)

7. Woody 'N You (Live at the Pershing)

8. What's New (Live at the Pershing)

x

Track List: Chamber Music Of The New Jazz

1. New Rumba

2. A Foggy Day

3. All Of You

4. It Ain't Necessarily So

5. I Don't Want To Be Kissed (By Anyone But You)

6. I Get A Kick Out Of You

7. Jeff

8. Darn That Dream

9. Spring Is Here

Comments

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Pete Escobar P.R. He is the best
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His last tour including percussionis t Manolo Bandena was a gas.
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His early 60's music started me on a
Long love affair w/ his music and jazz.
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One of my very favorites... h e ' s a genius
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Love his style of music.
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Beautiful music played with style!
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An amazing talented Artist
.I love all of his music and wish him the best of health and happiness for his future.
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Thanks
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Aretha Franklin
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ebouler3
Finally!!!!! This song is y i made da station!! Crisp melody, sharp piano chords n a supporting group is all u need 2 make a successful hit. Thanks mr jamal. Hope u all lyk dis.
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ebouler3
Mr jamal is a great pianist! I wud luv 2 have his total collection
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Ralston is correct!
"But not for me" truly a classic!!
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My man .... with style class and grace authentic come to mind how he makes me feel
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but not for me is his best alblum
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lisafsousa
Listening to Ahmad Jamal is like going home. I grew up listening to him in the SF bay area in the 60's. My mom would put his records on while we napped and she cleaned the house. She introduced me to some of the greatest jazz musicians of our time before I was 5 years old. How lucky was I?
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Just discovering this incredible musician … really like this piece and look forward to exploring more of his music
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Can't find the words. Skynndove
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Well, of course it's Ahmad Jamal. I could tell from the next room. Every note is exactly right.
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Alfoti1940


That's all I listened to while I was in high school was Mr Jamal!
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Jamal is unique in his delivery!
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Goldfingers.
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2nd best version of that tune. Bravo!
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One of the songs he played at the Jazz Festival was Saturday Morning from my note below is what I was referencing. He is one of the all time greats. I continue to enjoy his music.
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Heard him at our last Jazz Festival in Detroit, MI. Still smooth and easy. Great music all through the years. ay Morning that day and it was so good. I have the (CD) and play it all the time.
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The. Awakening
by. Ahmad. Jamal
on. The. Awakening
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Always there!!
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It's the A man.
Nothing else needs to be said.
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pjchubbear-p a n d o r a
One of the best!
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Love all his work, fell in love with the Atlantic recordings
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gedstover
Beautiful jazz. I've been a fan since the early 60's.
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Just Looove It!
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I put him right with Monk.
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AWESOME!
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aldersonw
ONE OF THE ALL TIME BEST!
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he's very smooth!
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Saw him at Basis Street East NYC 70's and went back a second night. He quieted the crowd by playing so softly you had to strain to hear the first few bars, then WOW.
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If Ahmad is good enough for the off track series, its good enough for me!
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perkins.fran k
His music is the theme of life
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great jazz
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Where's Jamal's Live at the Blackhawk recordings?
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chidiego
One of the Best from the 50's & 60's in Chi town my town. You can't beat Poinciana and But not for me !
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yup
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bejamb
Clean riffs, stirring
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Nuff' said!!!!
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edwardmclean 1
Truley a talanted jazz pianist. Been a fan since 1958.
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rlgiffin
Saw him in Washington, DC in 1959 in pouring rain and been a fan ever since.
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I love all instruments to paint to the tune,.My uncle had me hooked on the piano @ 5 years old! He was a very stricked piano teacher I felt sorry for his students but He, Bishop McMride was the best! He taught me to hear and appreciate music. Jamal is one of the greatest/bes t I've heard!
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vmills007
Gives the best live show!!
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hartfield2
Bought "But Not for me" in 1959, been a fan ever since.
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