Ahmad Jamal Quartet Kicks Off Segerstrom Jazz Season

Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
By The Precinct Reporter News

Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents the Ahmad Jamal Quartet for one performance only on October 19 at 8:00pm. The extraordinary night of music features jazz legend and celebrated pianist-composer Ahmad Jamal who returns to the center with his quartet which includes James Cammack, bass; Herlin Riley, drums; and Manolo Badrena, percussion.

Single tickets are now available online at www.SCFTA.org, at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa or by calling (714) 556-2787.

Ahmad Jamal was born on July 2nd, 1930 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the home of many artists known the world over for their work and contributions to both European Classical Music and American Classical Music (what Mr. Jamal prefers Jazz to be called).

He began playing the piano at age 3. Mr. Jamal started his formal studies with Mary Cardwell Dawson, noted educator, and the person responsible for placing the first African Americans in The Metropolitan Opera Company. When Madame Dawson moved to Washington, DC., he continued his studies with James Miller, a contemporary of Earl Wild, both Pittsburgh natives.

Mr. Jamal was composing and orchestrating at 10 years of age and performing works by Franz Liszt and exploring the music of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Nat Cole, Erroll Garner, and a host of others, learning the repertoire that comprises the American Song Book. He became so proficient at amassing a huge repertoire that he was employed by Pittsburgh masters three and four times his age and joined the American Federation of Musicians at 14, although the minimum age requirement at that time was 16.

He left home at the request of the George Hudson Orchestra at the age of 17 and began touring the country. The George Hudson Orchestra included Clark Terry and orchestrator Ernie Wilkins. The touring schedule included major theaters throughout the United States. Notably, the historic Apollo Theater in NYC, and The Howard Theater in Washington, DC. Mr. Jamal arrived at The Apollo with the orchestra at 18 years of age. He formed his own group in 1951 and with the help of John Hammond started his recording career with Okeh Records. That career has continued for over six decades and has resulted in one of the most successful recordings in the history of Instrumental music, The Ahmad Jamal Trio, at The Pershing used by Clint Eastwood in The Bridges Of Madison County and featured prominently in The Wolf Of Wall Street. It is also used in dance companies all over the world and continues to make musical history.

His many, many awards include The NEA Masters Award, French Government Awards, Malaysian Awards, Doctor of Music, Honoris Causa, New England Conservatory Of Music, which reads: “Ahmad Jamal, Jazz pianist, one of foremost leaders of small ensembles. An innovative great, who drew from and influenced idioms from the big band era to bebop to cool jazz to electronic styles. An American Jazz Master who inspired such important figures as Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie Hancock. Renowned for his exquisite touch, profound grace, and mercurial improvisational choices. For seven decades he’s been sharing his inimitable and unique voice with jazz lovers the world over.”

His career spans many eras of The Art Form, big band, the Parker / Gillespie era, the electronic age, etc. and is one of the most sampled composers and recording artists in the world. He is still recording and producing young artists, releasing Jamal Plays Jamal in 2015 and his latest album Marseille in 2017, both available from his web site www.ahmadjamal.com. Ahmad Jamal has been a Steinway Artist for over a half century.

Previously called the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Segerstrom Center is Orange County’s largest non-profit arts organization. In addition to its six performance venues, Segerstrom Center is also home to the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School.

The Center presents a broad range of programming for audiences of all ages, including international ballet and dance, national tours of top Broadway shows, jazz and cabaret, contemporary artists, classical music performed by renowned chamber orchestras and ensembles, family-friendly programming, free performances open to the public from outdoor movie screenings to dancing on the plaza and many other special events.

Segerstrom Center is a leader among the nation’s performing arts centers for providing education programs designed to inspire young people through the arts. The Center’s programs reach hundreds of thousands of students each year in five Southern California counties. Community engagement programs developed through the Center for Dance and Innovation and Center Without Boundaries also connect the Center more comprehensively with Orange County’s many diverse communities. The CDI supports flagship artistic programming and a wide range of projects that celebrate innovation, nurture creativity and engage audiences of the future. It is home to the ABT Gillespie School and the School of Dance and Music for Children with Disabilities. The Center Without Boundaries develops partnerships with non-cultural organizations to help them in their own efforts to respond to the ever-changing needs of the community.

This article originally appeared in the Precinct Reporter News. 

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