The legendary Pianist and composer of jazz Ahmed Jamalwho was a reference for musicians such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock or Keith Jarret, died this Sunday at the age of 92, sources in his family informed the US media.
His daughter Sumayah Jamal told The New York Times that her father died Sunday afternoon in the town of Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, after a long battle with prostate cancer.
Jamal was born on July 2, 1930 into a Baptist family in Pittsburgh (Philadelphia) and was baptized with the name of Frederick Russell Jones. At the age of 7 he began taking formal piano lessons, which included the study of classical composers such as Bach, Liszt and Beethoven, and at 14 he began a professional career that would span seven decades.
At the age of twenty, while on tour in Detroit, a city with a large Muslim community, he converted to Islam and changed his name.
From his personality as a musician, his capacity for innovation and his ability to influence other musicians have been highlighted, an influence that has reached popular music artists of our days.
Jamal was reluctant to have his music described by the term jazz and preferred to be considered “American classical music”. He was known for his spare playing style, often prolonging rests between notes, in a dynamic described as “”less is more”.
The legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, his lifelong friend, said of Jamal that “all his inspiration” came from him, and about his style he wrote in his autobiography that he was “astonished with his concept of space, the lightness of his touch , its attenuation and its way of interpreting the notes, chords and passages”.
His relaxed style and innovative musical concept soon became very popular in the world of music. jazz and, before he was thirty, in 1958, he had a great success with his album “At the Pershing: But Not for Me”, which became one of the best-selling instrumental records of its day.
His influence has reached our days, with rappers like Nas or hip hop stars like De La Soul using his piano riffs in their compositions.
During his long career, he was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including the French Order of Arts and Letters in 2007 and the Grammy for Career Achievement in 2017.
In an interview with The New York Times last year, Jamal said he still considered himself an evolving artist: “I’m still evolving every time I sit down at the piano (…) I still get some new ideas.”