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Ahmad Jamal Named Officer in French Order of Arts and Letters

The French government has inducted legendary jazz pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal into its prestigious Order of the Arts and Letters for his exceptional accomplishments in “American Classical Music.” French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres honored the Pittsburgh native, who turns 77 next week, for his work as a pianist, arranger, composer and producer.

The Order of Arts and Letters was established in 1957 and is one of four French ministerial orders. It is that country’s highest distinction for artistic or literary achievements and recognizes distinguished artists, writers and others who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and around the world. In being nominated to the rank of Officer, Jamal joins many important American artists including, among others, fellow jazz performers Ornette Coleman and Ella Fitzgerald.

Jamal began his recording career on Okeh Records after producer John Hammond gave him his first break, but has released his recordings on Paris-based Dreyfus Records for the past 10-plus years. His discography includes The Essence, Olympia 2000, In Search Of … Momentum [1-10], and several live concert recordings, including a DVD, Live In Baalbeck, which was filmed at a Roman temple in Lebanon. His most recent album on Dreyfus is entitled After Fajr.

Photo by John Abbott

Originally Published