He began playing the piano at age 3, the same age Erroll Garner started. They both attended the same elementary and high schools. 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 AFof M (American Federation of Musicians) at 14, 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 can be found on his web page, and includes 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, and has just released "Jamal Plays Jamal" on his own label, available from his web site,www.ahmadjamal.com.
Ahmad Jamal has been a Steinway Artist for over a half century.
Roger was 3-1/2 year old when his family first discovered his early talent for playing drums.
When Roger was 4 1/2 year old he sat in with the Tab Smith Big Band. His Uncle Frank Humphries was working with the Tab Smith band along with Savannah Churchill at the time.
He began playing professionally at the age of fourteen. He led his own group at Carnegie Music Hall when just sixteen. "I've had a love for music as long as I can remember. He was encouraged by his older brothers Lawrence Jr. and Norman who were musicians at that time. Additionally, Roger's son Roger Jr. and Norman's son Gregory have followed in their footsteps as professional drummers.
In August of 1962 began Roger's first major road job. He joined Stanley Turrentine (also from Pittsburgh) and Shirley Scott at the Hurricane in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.
In 1964 Roger went to New York to join the Horace Silver Quintet. While with Silver, he toured Europe twice and appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival, There, he was interviewed by renowned jazz writer, Leonard Feather. A summary of that interview is included in the Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties
Roger recorded three albums while working with Horace Silver.
They were "Song For My Father", "Cape Verderan Blues" and "Jody Grind". The Song For My Father album is one of the most legendary album's of our time, still being played by most jazz radio station as a popular hit. His tenure with the great Horace Silver lasted a little over three years from 1964 through 1967. During those three albums recordings he played with such giants as, Joe Henderson, James Spalding, Tyrone Washington saxophone, Teddy Smith, Larry Ridley bass, Woody Shaw, Carmell Jones trumpeters and J.J. Johnson trombone.
In 1965 Roger recorded with the great trumpeter Carmell Jones, the album called "Jay Hawk Talk".
He also recorded with such artists as, Geri Alan, Herbie Mann/Phil Woods, Richard Groove Holmes, Kenny Blake, Frank Cunimondo, Dwayne Dolphin and Nancy Wilson 2004 Christmas cd. He also appeared on Oprah Winfrey and Bryant Gumbel TV show with Nancy Wilson.