An interview with Ahmad Jamal: I miss the revolutionaries in all areas of human activity … Videos

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Jazz interview with jazz greatest pianist Ahmad Jamal. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Ahmad Jamal: – I grew up in one of the most important cities in the world for the Arts, Pittburgh, Pennsylvania. It is an amazing center for both European Classical Music, and American Classical Music (often referred to as Jazz).

My home town housed some of the most celebrate Artists, Composers, Painters, Dancers in the world to name just a few: Billy Strayhorn, George Benson, Earl Wild, Oscar Levant, Andy Warhol, Gene Kelly, Erroll Garner, Kenny Clarke, Mary Lou Williams, Joe Harris, Ray Brown, Roy Eldridge, Stanley Turrentine, Art Blakey, Billy Eckstein, Dodo Marmarosa, Johnny Costa (Mr. Rogers TV Show pianist), and many, many, others!!!

My interest in music was sparked by my Uncle Lawrence, who discoverd my talent when I was three years old.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the piano?

AJ: – The piano chose me, I didn’t choose it. At three years old, decisions are made for you, you are not old enough to make conscious decisions. In Pittsburgh we do not separate in our studies American Classical Music(Jazz) from European Classical. We study both!!!

I entered the specialty I am in because I began taking jobs in that genre. But I was also playing Franz Lizst in competition at 10 years old.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today?

AJ: – My first teacher, my Mother found for me when I was seven years old. Mary Cardwell Dawson, the first African American who put top singers in The Metropolitan Opera! When she left and went to Washington, DC., I studied with James Miller who had the same teacher as Earl Wild.

JBN.S: – What about the Your sound did that influence at all? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

AJ: – American Classical Music (Jazz, Blues), has influenced the entire world and will continue to do so even though it is not promoted properly in the country of it’s origin, the USA. That is why artist like the great Sidney Bechet left New Orleans, went to France, and never returned. He represents the case of many, many, others: Dexter Gordan, Johnny Griffin, Horace Parlan(also from Pittsburgh),Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and many others.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

AJ: – In this day and age of chaos, and distractions, and technology, that has become addictive, I find it very difficult to maintain a practice schedule, but I still try to do so!!!

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

AJ: – It is very difficult to launch a young artist these days. We have no record stores here in the states, very few studios, and very few independent labels like the one I started with, Chess, Checker, and Argo. However, there is always light in the darkness if one has something to offer, and prepares him or her self properly!!! I tell the young aspiring musicians to prepare themselves with options. Learn how to conduct, teach, perform, and write, so if one area breaks down you don’t sink into abysmal despair, and kill your career through addictive behavior. Have more than one exit door, and the way to do this is through education. One can obtain Degrees from Bachelors to Doctorates much easier these days than it was in former eras.

There are negatives in the institutions of higher learning, but the positives outweigh the negatives, so go to school ,and get out of the streets that you will be unable to handle. If one follows this advice they have a tremendous chance to succeed.

JBN.S: – Аnd finally jazz can be a business today and someday?

AJ: – American Classical Music (Jazz) has always been a business, and if you don’t treat it like a business as well as one of the most important Art Forms in the world, then you are highly mistaken, and misguided.

The smattering of culture we have in the USA was put her by Native American Art, and American Classical Music (Jazz).

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are from half-a-century ago?

AJ: – I miss the revolutionaries in all areas of human activity, In my field
the revolutionaries were: Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Lunceford, Count Basie, Nat Cole, Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and many others, that time does not permit me to name here.Don’t leave out the revolutionaries when it comes to the human voice, the most important instrument in the world: Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Bille Holiday, to name a few!!!

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

AJ: – The next musical frontier for me at 87 years is my composing. I have hundreds of compositions that run through my head each day. Some of them I want to commit to manuscript.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between the blues/jazz and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms?

AJ: – Music is a global village, and will always be, so you are always going to find similarities in all forms.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

AJ: – I listen mostly to me!!!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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