Friday, June 22, 2018

Jazz pianist bombs out in the States

The pianist Ahmad Jamal is reported by a Swiss newspaper to have been prevented from collecting his fee from the Swiss Jazz Festival because US authorities have blocked a money transfer of 10,000 US dollars which was sent to him from the organizers of the festival as payment for his performance. Ahmad Jamal’s Arabic-sounding name allegedly made over-zealous US officials suspect a link between the payment and possible terrorist activities.
That 2011 report comes from Freemuse, the organisation advocating freedom of expression for musicians. For those not acquainted with Ahmad Jamal's transcendent pianism, the 10 CD anthology Milestones of a Legend, which brings together his classic early recordings including the acclaimed 'But Not For Me - Live At the Pershing' in surprisingly good sound, is recommended. The 87 year old American resident and devout Muslim jazzer is still at work: his latest album Marseille features a collaboration with rapper Abd Al Malik in praise of the cultural melting pot that is one of my personal favourite cities - see video below. Abd Al Malik's memoir Sufi Rapper is recommended; this lyric is taken from his rap Ground Zero (Ode To Love) which pays homage to the pluralism of the Sufi master Ibn Arabi.
Time was I would criticize my neighbor
If his religion was not the same as mine
But now my heart welcomes every form
It is a prairie for the gazelles and
A cloister for monks
A temple for idols and
A kaaba for the pilgrim
The tables of the Torah and the book of the Qur'an
I follow the religion of Love and whatever
Direction taken by Love's camel
That is my religion and my faith


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