Ahmad Jamal

A sorely underexposed figure and a major influence on Miles Davis, pianist Ahmad Jamal isn't generally ranked among the all-time giants of jazz, but he impressed fellow musicians and record buyers alike with his innovative, minimalist approach. Jamal's manipulations of space and silence, tension and release, and dynamics all broke new ground, and had an impact far beyond Jamal's favored piano trio format. As an arranger, Jamal made the most of his small-group settings by thinking of them in orchestral terms: using his trademark devices to create contrast and dramatic effect, and allowing the rhythm section a great deal of independence in its interplay. Nonetheless, his ensembles were always tightly focused as well, following their leader through sudden changes in tempo or time signature, and often carrying the main riff of a tune.