Influential musician Ahmad Jamal has died after having prostate cancer.
According to Variety, his wife, Laura Hess-Hey, and his daughter, Sumayah Jamal, confirmed the news.
Jamal was a renowned jazz pianist, composer and music educator known for his unique style of compositions, improvising, and recognizable repetition of beats and voices in music.
He influenced not only some of the genre’s most prominent artists, like Miles Davis, Shirley Horn and Billie Charlap, but also hip-hop music. His music embodies his freedom, with hip-hop producers sampling it on Nas’ “The World Is Yours” and Anderson .Paak’s “Room in Here,” among others.
“Jamal knocked me out with his concept of space … his lightness of touch, his understatement, and the way he phrases notes and chords and passages,” Miles Davis said, according to the pianist’s website.
Born to Robert and Lottie Jones in Pittsburgh on July 2, 1930, he first went by the name his parents gave him, Frederick Jones.
Variety reported that he grew up in a community where other jazz legends like Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams lived nearby.
He began playing the piano so early that by age 3, he could play music by ear. He went on to take piano lessons a few years later and started his professional career as a pianist when he was 14.
Before he began recording music, he had a change of heart about his religion. Although he grew up Baptist, he decided to convert to the Nation of Islam, which led him to change his name to Ahmad Jamal.
In 1951, he recorded his first songs with his group, The Three Strings, later known as the Ahmad Jamal Trio. The trio gained acclaim when they routinely performed at Chicago’s Pershing Hotel six years later, and after they released their first album, At the Perishing: But Not For Me, their fan base grew even more. Jamal opened up a jazz club named Alhambra soon after the release, where he recorded multiple live albums until it closed in 1961.
Following his success in Chicago, he moved to the Big Apple and stopped making music until 1965. He released two more albums, Extensions and The Awakening, and began playing the electronic piano.
Jamal earned many accolades during his career, including an Entertainment Award from the Pittsburgh Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1959, the Distinguished Service Award in 1980, The Duke Ellington Fellow Award from Yale in 1994, the Steinway & Son’s Gold Medallion in 2003, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
May his legacy continue to live on.