Ahmad Jamal (1930-2023)

Ahmad Jamal Dies: Ahmad Jamal, one of the most important and influential jazz pianists of his generation, passed away on April 16, aged 92. Jamal began playing his piano at a young age and went on to develop a unique style, incorporating many diverse influences, including elements of swing, bebop and cool jazz. He first gained attention in the 1950s with his trio and rose to become one of the most successful small-group leaders in jazz, receiving many awards, including an NEA Jazz Master Award and a Lifetime Achievement Grammy for his contributions in music history.

Song of the Day: Ahmad Jamal – “But Not For Me”

At the Pershing: But Not For Me was a landmark album for Ahmad Jamal, a pianist with a refreshingly minimalist style and an exceptional feel for dynamics. To this day, the album — featuring trio mates Israel Crosby on bass and Vernel Fournier on drums — remains one of his most respected works. It was recorded on January 16, 1958, in the Pershing Lounge of Chicago’s Pershing Hotel, and was culled from more than 40 songs played during multiple sets. (The version below comes from the Argo Records sample The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions: 1952-’62.)

The George and Ira Gershwin tune “But Not For Me” is an excellent platform for Jamal’s highly expressive improvisations. The song finds him pushing the limits of conventional trio playing in all kinds of ways — kneading the rhythmic feel, making abrupt changes in volume, and repeating unconventional phrases until they take on new harmonic hues. It’s quintessential Jamal and requisite jazz listening.

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