Ahmad Jamal was born July 2, 1930, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He started performing at age three and was composing by age 10. Formal studies started at age seven with Mary Caldwell Dawson, founder of the first Afro-American Opera Company, and he later studied with James Miller, an outstanding pianist and teacher.
The professional career of Ahmad Jamal began when he was eleven. At that time he was performing works by Franz Liszt, Duke Ellington, and other composers. In addition, he performed with big bands, small groups, and as a soloist. Directly after graduating from high school, he was discovered by the prominent band leader George Hudson and taken to Atlantic City, where his road career began. He was soon playing at major theaters including New York's famous Apollo.
After a year and a half of touring with the Hudson Band, Jamal went to Chicago and formed his own trio in 1951. His recording career began a few years later, culminating in the Chess, Checker and Argo groups years beginning in 1958. He had many outstanding recordings during this period. Most notably, Jamal at The Pershing, which was a huge seller and on the Billboard top ten list.
Over the years Ahmad Jamal has made numerous recordings and toured extensively. He remains a vital musical force throughout the world.