Ahmad Jamal this week, recorded shortly after celebrating his 70th birthday in 2000 playing to a sell-out crowd a concert at the famed l’Olympia in Paris.
One of the most successful and well-known small group leaders in Jazz, Jamal has had a wide and celebrated career, not only as soloist and leader, but as composer and educator and a pivotal figure in the long history of Jazz.
Beginning his career shortly after graduating high school in 1948, Jamal left his native Pittsburgh and settled in Chicago where his career took off, starting in 1951 with a series of sessions for the Okeh label.
Over the following years, Jamal’s sound and style evolved, and he became one of the most popular small group leaders of the late 1950s.
Aside from his 3 year hiatus in the early 1960s, Ahmad Jamal has been gigging and recording a considerable amount in all that time. And this concert, celebrating his 70th birthday is a celebration of a brilliant and long-lasting career. Together with drummer Idris Muhammad and bassist James Cammack with special guest appearance by George Coleman on sax, it has been available commercially, beginning in 2001 – although it’s not entirely clear if that album is still in print or not.
Now at 85, Jamal has shown no signs of slowing down. Branching off and incorporating electronics, he has taken a more improvisational approach to his playing. Further evidence Jazz is in a state of constant evolution.
If you are just discovering Jazz, and are working your way around the many influential figures in the Jazz idiom, Ahmad Jamal is one of those artists you need to know about. He has often been referred to as a “musicians musician” – this concert gives a good idea of what he does in a live performance setting and is one aspect of a long and rewarding career.