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Ahmad Jamal

Sunday, October 15 and Monday, October 16, at Nighttown.


Among the major jazz pianists to emerge in the '50s, Ahmad Jamal has influenced numerous musicians, including Miles Davis and Davis's pianist, Red Garland. Like one of his own major influences, Erroll Garner, Jamal was born in Pittsburgh, although he came to the fore in Chicago. Jamal picked up Garner's method of spread chord voicing and comping, and modified it to serve his own purposes (e.g. , like Garner, he punctuated twice per bar with his left hand rather than four times). Davis became aware of Jamal sometime in the early '50s and later praised him highly, citing him as an influence. Among other things, Davis was impressed with the way Jamal, like Count Basie, used "space" or rests to air out his solos. Davis asked Garland to play more like Jamal, and Garland's synthesis had a terrific impact on other pianists, including Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, and McCoy Tyner. Jamal's first recordings were made for Epic, but he achieved a great deal of commercial success in the late '50s with Argo. His But Not for Me album, cut for that label in 1958, stayed in the Top Ten for 108 consecutive weeks, and his light, subtle playing, often in the upper octaves, impressed musicians and fans alike. He also employed dynamic and textural contrasts effectively. Later, when Jamal went to the Impulse label, his soloing, while remaining quite interesting, became more percussive and dense as he continued to evolve, refusing to rest on his laurels.

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