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Ahmad Jamal, a legendary Jazz pianist who released a bevy of songs heavily sampled in the Hip-Hop sphere, has died after combating prostate cancer according to reports. Ahmad Jamal remained an active and curious musician well into his 80s, including a Kennedy Center set he expertly performed two years ago.
Ahmad Jamal (formerly Frederick Russell Jones) was born on July 2, 1930, in Pittsburgh, Pa. According to biographical accounts, Jamal began playing piano at the age of 3 and became a professional player at 14. Shortly after high school, Jamal’s touring career began and his travels led him to Islam, thus changing his name to Ahmad Jamal and keeping with the Muslim traditions of prayer.
In 1951, Jamal’s recording career would officially begin, culminating in his touring nationally and around the world behind the success of the At the Pershing: But Not for Me album. Jamal was also known as a prudent investor and used his fortunes to make investments across Africa. In 1962, Jamal stepped away from music for more than two years, returning to recording with the release of three albums in 1965, including the acclaimed Extensions album.
In 1973, Jamal released an instrumental version of the theme song for the 1970 film M*A*S*H*, a song originally known as “Suicide Is Painless” by The Mash and featured on the film’s original soundtrack.
The American Jazz Masters award, National Endowment for the Arts gave Jamal an American Jazz Masters award in 1994. In 2007, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts named Jamal a Living Jazz Legend. In 2017, Jamal was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award by The Recording Academy.
Jamal’s music was famously sampled by Hip-Hop acts such as De La Soul, Pete Rock, Nas, 9th Wonder, Earl Sweatshirt, and countless others over the past two decades and more. Jamal’s last official recording was 2019’s Ballades album.
According to a report from the Washington Post, Jamal’s daughter, Sumayah Jamal, confirmed the passing of her father.
Ahmad Jamal was 92.
Photo: MARTIN BUREAU / Getty