Ahmad Jamal (born July 2, 1930) is a highly-regarded American Jazz pianist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. His given name was Fritz Jones but upon converting to Islam around 1952 he began using the name Ahmad Jamal.
Jamal was one of Miles Davis’s favorite pianists and was a key influence on the trumpeter’s 1st classic quintet (featuring John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums). Davis had long admired Jamal’s use of space and dynamics.
Jamal scored a major popular “hit” in his version of Poinciana, recorded while live on tour from The Pershing nightclub in Chicago. His style has changed steadily over time - from the lighter, breezy style heard on his 50s sides to the funk + Carribbean stylings of the 70s and onto the large open voicings and bravura-laden playing of the nineties. Jamal has always been distinctive however for his use of space, his dramatic crescendos, and for a very staccato orientation with chords.
In addition to being an excellent pianist, Jamal is also very adept with both the Rhodes electric piano and the Wurlitzer 200 electric piano.
For a time in the 60s and 70s Jamal ran his own nightclub in Chicago called “The Alhambra”.
Ahmad Jamal, while dismissed early in his career as a cocktail stylist, has since gone on to be recognized as one of the all-time greatest jazz pianists.