Jazz legend Ahmad Jamal dies at 92

Legendary jazz pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal has died at the age of 92. 

His wife, Laura Hess-Hey, according to Pitchfork, confirmed the incident via The Washington Post but no cause of death was given. 

Jamal was a jazz innovator known for his minimalistic and restrained playing, which laid the groundwork for “cool jazz.” He is perhaps best known for his arrangement of the jazz standard “Poinciana,” which appears on his best-selling 1958 album Live at the Pershing: But Not For Me, and the 1970 Ahmad Jamal Trio album The Awakening.

Born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 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. By the time he turned 17, Jamal began touring in George Hudson’s Orchestra. In 1951, Jamal moved to Chicago and founded his first trio, the Three Strings. 

They were discovered by John Hammond, who signed them to Okeh Records. Later the same year, Jamal released his first album as a bandleader, Ahmad’s Blues, on the label. The Three Strings became the house trio at Chicago’s Pershing Hotel in 1958, and it was during their residency there that they recorded the now-legendary But Not For Me.

Jamal released over 70 albums throughout his six-decade career ranging from solo piano work to jazz trios to collaborations with string quartets. His last was 2019’s Ballades. Two years prior, in 2017, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his work.

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