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Acclaimed American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal dies aged 92

Celebrated jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal has died aged 92
Celebrated jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal has died aged 92 Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By David Mouriquand
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American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal has died aged 92 - his work has influenced many of the greats, including Miles Davis, who once said: "All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal."

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Acclaimed US jazz pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal, whose career spanned more than seven decades, has died aged 92.

Jamal's widow Laura Hess-Hey confirmed his death, The Washington Post reported, while his daughter Sumayah Jamal told The New York Times the cause was prostate cancer.

Jamal was friends with music greats such as legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, and influenced his work and that of countless other musicians.

Davis once said: "All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal" and in his autobiography, he wrote that Jamal "knocked me out with his concept of space, his lightness of touch, his understatement, and the way he phrased notes and chords and passages".

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Ahmad Jamal use of minimalism and silence between notes inspired countless musiciansGetty

Born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 2 July 1930, Jamal began playing piano at age three. He studied under Mary Cardwell Dawson—noted singing instructor and founder in 1941 of the National Negro Opera Company—at the age of seven, and pianist James Miller during his early teens.

He won myriad awards over the course of his career, including France's prestigious Ordre des Arts and des Lettres in 2007 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Jamal was credited with luring a larger pop audience to enjoy jazz.

His playing style was described as "less-is-more" and one technique he used to great effect was placing silence between notes.

He is perhaps best known for his arrangement of the jazz standard 'Poinciana', which appears on his best-selling 1958 breakthrough album 'Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: But Not for Me', and the 1970 Ahmad Jamal Trio album 'The Awakening'. 'Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: But Not for Me' stayed on the Billboard magazine charts for more than 100 weeks and is one of the best-selling instrumental records of its time.

His piano riffs sampled by hip hop artists including Nas and De La Soul.

Several musicians have shared tributes online in Ahmad Jamal’s honour, including Badbadnotgood, the New Pornographers’ Joe Seiders, and Christian McBride.

Jamal is survived by his wife Laura Hess-Hey and daughter Sumayah Jamal.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

Additional sources • AFP, The Washington Post

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