He was one of the great names in jazz: the prolific American pianist Ahmad Jamal, known for his cover of the title "Poinciana" and his art of the trio, died Sunday at the age of 92.
The artist's widow, Laura Hess-Hey, has confirmed his death, The Washington Post reported. According to statements by his daughter to the New York Times, he was suffering from prostate cancer.
A huge figure in jazz, he crossed the musical artistic scene for seven decades and released at least 80 albums. Ahmad Jamal has also influenced the work of musicians such as trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist McCoy Tyner.
Born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he grew up in a very modest African-American family. As a child, his mother gave him a piano on which he made his debut: the legend was born.
The album "Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: But Not for Me", released in 1958, marked the beginning of his success. There are more than 100 weeks left on the Billboard chart, the American ranking of the most popular titles.
According to The New York Times, it became one of the best-selling instrumental records of the time. A rare occurrence for jazzmen, unaccustomed to rubbing shoulders with the top of the charts.
He converted to Islam in 1950.
In the midst of the civil rights movement and while many jazzmen take a public position, Ahmad Jamal does not place himself under any banner and stays away from "Black Power".
The album "The Awakening" (1970) reflects this position, rejecting the political slogans of the time. It is above all the sophistication of the arrangements for the trio that gives the whole a very special sound and will become its "signature".
His style is described as based on surprise, ruptures, the use of silences, with romantic accents, with a phrasing that is both dynamic and light.
In the mid-1990s, Ahmad Jamal gave his trio new energy and color by integrating Manolo Badrena, a brilliant and explosive percussionist, the perfect counterpoint to his sophisticated playing.
His secret? "I live an exciting life, and when you live an interesting life, you keep discovering," he told AFP in 2012.
Pioneer, he never stopped reinventing himself.
"Musicians blossom, build themselves. Some basic things are still there in my music, the melodic sense for example, but the density of sound has changed with age, and the rhythmic part becomes more elaborate", had-- he continued.
In 2017, he received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Ten years earlier, he was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters of France where jazz still has its aficionados.
To the word jazz, the pianist has always preferred that of "classical American music".
"European classical music is represented by Bach, Brahms, Ravel, Debussy, Beethoven, Chopin... American classical music is represented by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sidney Bechet", he told Telerama in 2017 .
On this same date and when he was 86 years old, he signed an ode to Marseille, his "second home". The pianist fell in love with the city in 1989, during his first concert in Marseille.
Despite age, the kid from Pittsburgh has never given up on music. In an interview with The Times at the end of 2022, Ahmad Jamal said: "I always evolve, every time I sit down at the piano". “I always have new ideas”.
04/17/2023 18:03:17 - Paris (AFP) - © 2023 AFP