Legendary jazz pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal has died, The Washington Post reports. No cause of death was disclosed. He was 92 years old.
Born Fredrick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jamal began playing piano when he was three years old. At the age of seven, he started studying under Mary Cardwell Dawson, who would go on to found the National Negro Opera Company. After graduating from George Westinghouse High School in 1948, he began touring with George Hudson’s Orchestra before moving to Chicago, where he formed his own trio, the Three Strings, in 1951.
The Three Strings served as the house band at Chicago’s Pershing Hotel in 1958, and it was during their residency there that they recorded the influential 1958 album At The Pershing: But Not For Me, which featured a standout rendition of ‘Poinciana’. Following the success of that LP, Jamal opened his own club in Chicago called the Alhambra, where he recorded several albums until its closure in 1961.
Throughout his eight-decade career, Jamal worked with Richard Davis, Israel Crosby, Vernel Fournier, Jamil Nasser, Frank Gant, and many others. His 1969 album The Awakening was sampled in songs by Gang Starr, Shadez of Brooklyn, and Nas, while De La Soul sampled his 1974 song ‘Swahililand’ for the title track to Stakes Is High. He released his last album, Ballades, in 2019.
In 1994, Jamal received the American Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2017, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to music history.