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AHMAD JAMAL AT AGE 14<br>with Carl McVicker's Legendary Westinghouse High Scool Swing Band!<br>(Pittsburgh circa 1943-44)<BR>One of a kind unpublished 8x10 yearbook photo signed by entire band<BR>including Jamal as "Freddie Jones"!!<BR>SOLD!!

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Here's a true one of a kind jazz rarity. This high yearbook photo didn't even make it into the yearbook! Signed by the entire high 1943-1944 lineup of the legendary Westinghouse High School "swing" band, including a fourteen year old "Freddie" Jones (real name Fritz Jones) who later changed his name to Ahmad Jamal, that played under the tuteledge of the late great Carl McVicker.

McVicker is something of a legend himself, having not only served as a mentor for Jamal but also Billy Strayhorn in the 1920s, best known for composing "Lush Life" and his longtime partnership with Duke Ellington as composer and arranger. Below is a section from Strayhorn's biography "Lush Life" in which the old Westinghouse High School band, McVicker and Jamal are mentioned:

For the next five years, Strayhorn and Herforth attended Westinghouse High, a public school endowed by George Westinghouse, the electrical industrialist whose local factory then employed some thirty-five thousand workers in the Pittsburgh area; the company logo hung over the auditorium stage. Within its two city blocks of austere white-granite walls, Westinghouse had an enrollment of four hundred, about 20 percent black, and was well known for its gym team, which from the late 1920s to the late 1930s won the city finals ten years straight. In 1927, Carl McVicker, a young Carnegie Tech graduate, joined the Westinghouse faculty as an instrumental-music teacher and instituted a music program considered so radical that two teachers left the school over it. (It helped McVicker's cause that his oldest friend was superintendent of schools.) He accepted and encouraged students of all backgrounds and races to play all instruments. "Mr. McVicker instilled self-respect in those of us who were his students, because he respected us regardless of our background," said pianist Ahmad Jamal (once Fritz Jones), a student of McVicker's who made his professional debut while still attending Westinghouse. In addition, McVicker started a school swing band as a (then-controversial) alternative to the concert orchestra and marching band. Under McVicker, music-hungry students like Strayhorn thrived. "We were a factory-town school, so we had a lot of kids like Billy, kids who needed an outlet of one kind or another but had a hard time because they were black," explained McVicker, a gangly six-foot-three man with open, deep-pooled eyes and a Chaplin mustache; he looked like the music teacher of a student's doodle. "I wanted any kid in my program who was serious, and Billy was about as serious as they get. Earnest, hardworking, wanted to get ahead in music. As a matter of fact, I would say he was much different from most high school musicians. He was an intellectual. He had a broad base of knowledge of academics, although he learned everything we could teach him about music--and more. You know, he didn't play in the swing band. He wasn't interested. He was a serious pianist and concentrated strictly on the concert repertoire."

An interesting fact for vintage crime buffs, the kid who signed Val "Moke" Capone (real name Valentino Capone) is Al's nephew (or so I'm told!). I bet that was an interesting prom. Early gems like this are few and far between.

Here's the description of the photo that was emailed to me by the person who sold it to me (the guy who sold it to me is a nice old gent who is in the picture himself, part of the band and on the yearbook staff):

"1943 Photo of one of Carl McVicker's legendary Westinghouse High School "swing bands" with Freddy (Fritz) Jones (Aka Ahmad Jamal) as a 13-14 year old piano player. Signed. McVicker was mentor to Billy Strayhorn better known as Duke Ellington's arranger than as a composer (Lush Life, Caravan) and co-composer (A Train) with the Duke), Errol Garner, many good sidemen like Mickey Scrima and Bill Esch. "

The photo measures 8x10 and is in very good condition.

Below is a short bio of Jamal courtesy of Scott Yanow from AMG:

One of the few pianists in the 1950s who did not sound like a close copy of Bud Powell, Ahmad Jamal's use of space, ability to gradually increase or decrease the volume with his trio and brilliant use of tension and release were quite original. He greatly impressed Miles Davis (who borrowed from his repertoire and insisted that Red Garland try to sound like him) and Jamal also cut some very popular records without altering his style.

Jamal began playing professionally in Pittsburgh when he was 11. In the late '40s he joined George Hudson's Orchestra. In 1951 he formed his first trio, the Three Strings, a group with guitarist Ray Crawford and bassist Eddie Calhoun. Israel Crosby took Calhoun's place in 1955. One of Jamal's recordings from that year was a version of "Pavanne" that at one point states the melody from John Coltrane's "Impressions," five years before 'Trane "wrote" the song! In 1956 Jamal switched to a piano-bass-drums trio with Walter Perkins replacing Crawford. With Vernell Fournier on drums by 1958, Jamal recorded his most popular album, Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing, and his version of "Poinciana" is still famous. The trio broke up in 1962 but Jamal continued growing as a pianist (sometimes doubling on electric piano in the 1970s) and he remains one of the most distinctive (and indirectly influential) pianists in jazz. Ahmad Jamal recorded through the years for Epic, Argo/Cadet, Impulse, Catalyst, 20th Century, Atlantic and Telarc. -- Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

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Regular price: $950.00Sale price: $450.00

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