Monday, November 30, 2015

A00075 - Ahmad Jamal, Jazz Pianist

*Ahmad Jamal,  (b. Frederick Russell Jones), an American jazz pianist known for his rendition of But Not ForMe, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (July 2). 

Ahmad Jamabegan playing piano at the age of three, when his uncle Lawrence challenged him to duplicate what he was doing on the piano. Jamal began formal piano training at the age of seven with Mary Cardwell Dawson, whom he describes as greatly influencing him. His Pittsburgh roots remained an important part of his identity ("Pittsburgh meant everything to me and it still does," he said in 2001) and it was there that he was immersed in the influence of jazz artists such as Earl Hines, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner. Jamal also studied with pianist James Miller and began playing piano professionally at the age of fourteen, at which point he was recognized as a "coming great" by the pianist Art Tatum. 

Born to Baptist parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jamal did not discover Islam until his early 20s. While touring in Detroit (where there was a sizable Muslim community in the 1940s and 1950s), Jamal became interested in Islam and Islamic culture. He converted to Islam and changed his name to Ahmad Jamal in 1950. In an interview with The New York Times a few years later, Jamal said his decision to change his name stemmed from a desire to "re-establish my original name." In 1986, Jamal sued critic Leonard Feather for using his former name in a publication.

After the recording of the best-selling album But Not For Me, Jamal's music grew in popularity throughout the 1950s. In 1959, he took a tour of North Africa to explore investment options in Africa. Jamal, who was twenty-nine at the time, said he had a curiosity about the homeland of his ancestors, highly influenced by his conversion to the Muslim faith. He also said his religion had brought him peace of mind about his race, which accounted for his "growth in the field of music that has proved very lucrative for me."

Upon his return to the United States after a tour of North Africa, the financial success of Live at the Pershing: But Not For Me allowed Jamal to open a restaurant and club called The Alhambra in Chicago. In 1962, The Three Strings disbanded and Jamal moved to New York City, where, at the age of 32, he took a three-year hiatus from his musical career.

In 1964, Jamal resumed touring and recording, this time with the bassist Jamil Nasser and recorded a new album, Extensions, in 1965. Jamal and Nasser continued to play and record together from 1964 to 1972. He also joined forces with Vernel Fournier (again, but only for about a year) and drummer Frank Gant (1966–76), among others. He continued to play throughout the 1970s and 1980s, mostly in trios with piano, bass and drums, but he occasionally expanded the group to include guitar. One of his most long-standing gigs was as the band for the New Year's Eve celebrations at Blues Alley in Washington, D. C., from 1979 through the 1990s. Until 1970, he played acoustic piano exclusively. The final album on which he played acoustic piano in the regular sequence was The Awakening. In the 1970s, Jamal played electric piano as well. It was rumored that the Rhodes piano was a gift from someone in Switzerland.

In 1985, Jamal agreed to do an interview and recording session with his fellow jazz pianist, Marian McPartland on her NPR show Piano Jazz. Jamal, who said he rarely plays "But Not For Me" due to its popularity since his 1958 recording, played an improvised version of the tune – though only after noting that he has moved on to making ninety percent of his repertoire his own compositions. He said that when he grew in popularity from the Live at the Pershing album, he was severely criticized afterwards for not playing any of his own compositions.

In 1994, Mr. Jamal received the American Jazz Masters fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts.  The same year he was named a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, where he performed commissioned works with the Assai String Quartet. 

In 2007 the French Government inducted Mr. Jamal into the prestigious Order of the Arts and Letters by French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, naming him Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.   

Mr. Jamal’s previous recording A Quiet Time (Dreyfus Records), released in January 2010, was the number #1 CD on jazz radio for the year 2010 and continues to soar.  Also this year the French Jazz Academy has voted "The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions 1956-1962" released by Mosaïc "Best reissue of the year with outstanding research work".  His music remains, youthful, fresh, imaginative and always influential.  
In December of 2011 Mr. Jamal was awarded with DownBeat’s 76th Reader’s Poll Hall of Fame.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A00074 - Gaafar Nimeiry, Fifth President of Sudan

Gaafar Mohamed el-Nimeiri, also spelled Jaʿfar Muḥammad al-Numayrī, Nimeiri also spelled Nimeiry, Nemery, or Numeyri   (b. January 1, 1930, Wad Nubawi, Omdurman, Sudan— d. May 30, 2009, Omdurman, Sudan), major general, commander of the armed forces, and president of Sudan (1971–85).
After graduating from the Sudan Military College in 1952, Nimeiry acted as commander of the Khartoum garrison and led campaigns against rebels in southern Sudan. He joined in a number of attempts to overthrow the Sudanese government. In 1966 he graduated from the United States Army Command College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Three years later he overthrew the civilian regime of Isma'il al-Azhari and was promoted to major general. He became prime minister and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).  He put down a right-wing revolt led by Sayyid Ṣādiq al-Mahdī in March 1970 but was briefly overthrown by a communist coup in July 1971. In September 1971, he was elected president in a plebiscite with 98.6 percent of the vote.
Upon his election as president, Nimeiry dissolved the RCC and established in 1972 the Sudanese Socialist Union, a political party of which he also became president. He was credited with bringing about negotiations that led to a settlement of a long-running conflict with the southern Sudan region, to which he granted autonomy in 1972.
When Nimeiry assumed power, he first pursued a socialist economic policy but soon shifted course in favor of capitalist agriculture, designed to make Sudan a major food producer. In March 1981 he inaugurated the Kinānah sugar project, one of the largest sugar refineries in the world. His efforts were hampered, however, by a succession of economic crises brought on in part by overly ambitious development plans, and his reign was punctuated by many attempted coups.
Nimeiry became the first Muslim leader to back the efforts of Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat to establish peace with Israel. As president of the Organization of African Unity (OAU; now the African Union) in 1978, Nimeiri reasserted his position that Africa should keep free from entanglements of “alignment” with external powers.
His attempts to promulgate measures of Islamic law (Shari'ah) in Sudan alienated many in the predominantly Christian southern region, as did his abrogation of the 1972 agreement that had granted southern Sudan autonomy. These factors helped to fuel the resumption of war with southern Sudan (now South Sudan) in 1983.
In April 1985, while he was in the United States, Nimeiry was overthrown by his defense minister in a bloodless coup. He sought refuge in Egypt, where he spent 14 years in exile. After his return to Sudan in 1999, he was not actively involved in Sudanese politics.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A00073 - Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi Politician Who Pushed for U. S. Invasion

Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi (Arabic: أحمد عبد الهادي الجلبي‎‎; October 30, 1944 –  November 3, 2015) was an Iraqi politician.
He was interim Minister of Oil in Iraq in April–May 2005 and December 2005 – January 2006 and Deputy Prime Minister from May 2005 to May 2006. Chalabi failed to win a seat in parliament in the December 2005 elections, and when the new Iraqi cabinet was announced in May 2006, he was not given a post. Once dubbed the "George Washington of Iraq" by American supporters, he later fell out of favor and came under investigation by several United States government sources. He was also the subject of a 2008 biography by investigative journalist Aram Roston: The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, And Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi and a 2011 biography by 60 Minutes producer Richard Bonin, Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi's Long Journey to Triumph in Iraq.

Chalabi was a controversial figure, especially in the United States, for many reasons. In the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), with the assistance of lobbying powerhouse BKSH & Associates, provided a major portion of the information on which United States Intelligence based its condemnation of the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, including reports of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Most, if not all, of this information has turned out to be false and Chalabi has been called a fabricator. That, combined with the fact that Chalabi subsequently boasted, in an interview with the British Sunday Telegraph, about the impact that their alleged falsifications had on American policy, led to a falling out between him and the United States government. Furthermore, Chalabi was found guilty in the Petra banking scandal in Jordan. In January 2012, a French intelligence official stated that they believed Chalabi to be an Iranian agent.