This is a guy who loves his hometown. Whenever he’s interviewed, it always comes up. Pittsburgh. I’ve never been there, but I imagine that it’s spring most of the year, there are a lot of parks down by the rivers, everyone has a piano, and, as you walk down the street, all these notes are pouring out of the windows. They don’t just play jazz, although most of them do, you can also hear Perry Como, Stephen Foster, The Marcels, the Swan Silvertones, Betty Davis, Henry Mancini, Dean Martin, Dion, and a bunch of guys playing that funky music.
Just the piano players from Pittsburgh is amazing – besides Ahmad, there’s Geri Allen, Sonny Clarke, Errol Garner, Earl Hines, Dodo Marmarosa, Horace Parlan, Pinetop Smith, Mary Lou Williams, and Billy Strayhorn. Tons of other players of various instruments hold down the rhythm section, like, Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, and Art Blakey. I’m not even going to get into the horn players. Stanley Turrentine, Roy Eldridge, Bob Cooper, Eric Kloss. And singers! Don’t get me going. Ahmad is right, what a town!
Ahmad has been going since 1930, beginning to play at 3, and is now 83. He’s still touring, making great records, and blowing the minds of everyone lucky enough to see him in person. He plays a particularly percussive kind of piano, but has every other kind of touch – melodic, sweet, exciting, harmonic, rhythmic – he is a master player/composer among masters.
There is no shortage of his recorded music – from his days of But Not for Me, in the 50’s and as owner of the Alhambra, to Blue Moon, which came out last year. In recent years, Herlin Riley and Idris Muhammad, incredible drummers, and James Cammack, Reginald Veal, both bassists extraordinaire, have backed him through many wonderful moments.
September 1st, he’s going to be at the Detroit Jazz Festival and, in February, in Portland. Oh, yeah, and, on September 27, he’ll be in Pittsburgh.