Only one of 80,000 photographs taken in the years 1935 – 1975 by the Pittsburgh photog, “Teenie” Harris, now displayed in a show at the Carnegie Museum in my home town, this captivating shot of the young Ahmad Jamal (born Frederick Russell ‘Fritz’ Jones) playing piano while perched on a trumpet-case throne steals my heart.
I was alerted to the photo by the great Los Angeles disc jockey, Tom Schnabel, a world music expert who has regularly featured Jamal’s tuneful playing over the years. Tom’s consummate ear has made him one of L.A.’s premiere taste makers. As it happens a week ago Saturday, I was cruising south along Wilton Avenue, the full flood of afternoon sun blasting onto my car’s little head, the air pitched at a pleasant degree of coolness, and at that very moment, Schnabel broadcast the title tune from Jamel’s latest album, “Blue Moon.” The octogenarian pianist, many miles and moons from his days as little Fritz Jones of Pittsburgh, cloaks the Tin Pan Alley ditty inside a wall of hypnotic drumbeats that drill for a very long while. When the familiar melody finally emerges, it’s a revelation at a whole other level. It’s like, wow.
Indeed, wow. So this one’s dedicated to Tom Schnabel.
The Carnegie Museum of Art’s “Teenie” Harris photo-archive of African-American twentieth century life & culture here.
Ahmad Jamal upcoming performances here.