Ahmad Jamal, a legendary jazz pianist whose sparse style influenced countless others in the genre and beyond, has passed away, reports the Washington Post.

His daughter Sumayah Jamal confirmed that he passed in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts from complications due to pancreatic cancer.

Born Frederick Jones in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the steel city known for its rich jazz history, his uncle Lawrence helped to spark his interest in playing the piano. By the time he was three years old, Jamal was playing by ear. At age 7, he began studying Mozart and jazz legend Art Tatum. One of his early teachers, Mary Cardwell Dawson who founded the National Negro Opera Company along with his aunt Louise, gave him the sheet of music of tunes played by Tatum, Nat King Cole, and Erroll Garner which would set the trajectory of his life’s work. Additionally, he worked with James Miller as a student at Westinghouse high school.

In an interview with Wax Poetics in 2018, Jamal reflected on his formative years. "I studied Art Tatum, Bach, Beethoven, Count Basie, John Kirby, and Nat Cole. I was studying Liszt. I had to know European and American classical music,” recalled the celebrated jazz musician. “My mother was rich in spirit, and she led me to another rich person: my teacher, Mary Cardwell Dawson, who started the first African-American opera company in the country.”

Although he was raised a Baptist, he became interested in Islam, and while in Detroit, he gained acceptance into a substantial Muslim community in the 1940s. He changed his name to Ahmad Jamal after converting in 1950.

Launching his career as a band leader in the early '50s, Jamal led a number of trios and quartets, before working with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier. In 1958, they released At The Pershing: But Not For Me which would become one of the most hallowed albums in jazz history. The LP stayed on the Billboard Top 200 album chart for 108 weeks, a major feat in the jazz world. After releasing several acclaimed albums up until1960s, the trio disbanded and Jamal took a sabbatical in 1962.

Returning to the music landscape in 1964, he released Extensions, in 1965 with Fournier on drums and new bassist Jamil Nasser. The new-look trio would work together until 1972. In 1969, their project, The Awakening, was hailed as an essential body of work in jazz.

Throughout the '80s and '90s, Jamal continued to tour and record. For his later work, he would receive two Grammy nominations.

Throughout his remarkable career, he received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master award in 1994; a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2017; and he was inducted into France’s Order of Arts and Letters in 2019.

Jamal’s work expanded to new audiences when his music was sampled in hip hop. Artists including Nas, Pete Rock, De La Soul, DJ Premier and many others have sampled Jamal’s music as the foundation of some of the genre's most recognizable tracks.

Music icon Miles Davis in his memoir Miles praised Jamal as one of his primary influences.  

“All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal,” revealed Davis. He noted how Jamal “knocked me out with his concept of space, his lightness of touch, and the way he phrases notes and chords and passages''.

We at EBONY extend our prayers and deep condolences to the family and friends of Ahmad Jamal.