Let’s start with the music. Jamil had a remarkable sense of time. He played right in the center of the beat; he didn’t play on the top of the beat or the bottom of the beat. He played right in the center of the beat so whenever he played with a pianist he pulled that person in right away if the pianist didn’t happen to play that way although most of the pianists with whom he worked played that way-right in the center of the beat-that’s what we call swing, and that’s what jazz is really about.
Phineas Newborn was one of the first musician with whom Jamil played, and he said that playing with Phineas made the biggest difference in his life. They both grew up in Memphis and attended Booker T. Washington High School. Phineas was born in 1931. Jamil was born in 1932 so they were only a year apart in age. Jamil always told me that working with Phineas was what prepared him to work with Ahmad Jamal.