Ahmad Jamal - and his influence on jazz

Friday night, we heard Bill Strickland share a fine cut from Pittsburgh native Ahmad Jamal from the CD “Live at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase.”

This Sunday on WZUM, I pick out a less often heard recording (at least these days - it’s from 1955).

Just to show you how interrelated things are -

Pavane is a tune by pianist, conductor, composer and arranger Morton Gould (who was also President of ASCAP, just as the digital revolution was taking hold in the 1980’s and 1990’s - fascinating guy).

Pavane was on the flip side of the 1939 Glenn Miller record, Little Brown Jug. So, a lot of people were familiar with it. In 1942, Morton Gould did his own version.

Move forward to 1955 - Ahmad Jamal, had moved to Chicago from Pittsburgh and national touring by 1952. He settled into the Pershing Hotel for a musical residency that shook the world.

Mind you, there were challenges. He told me years ago how some of his biggest hit recordings were done there on a piano with a cracked soundboard. Still, the magic he crafted over the years is rock solid.

1955 included this trio date with Israel Crosby, bass, guitarist Ray Crawford, guitar.

It’s pretty stunning stuff, and amazing when you consider it is just piano, bass and guitar. As pianist Hal Galper noted in a 1999 interview, Ahmad Jamal has been an amazingly influential jazz performer - one whom all other musicians were well aware of. Especially Miles Davis in the 1950’s.

Part of the privilege of bringing great jazz to you is the make connections - between artists and to you as a listener. Ahmad Jamal has been connecting very well. At 88, he has connected back to Chicago with a performance Friday night, October 12th at Symphony Center.

Scott Hanley, WZUM