Ahmad Jamal

Ahmad Jamal

The power of Ahmad Jamal’s distinctive piano rhythms closed out the inaugural 12-hour back-to-back Miles Davis Festival in 2001. With over 10,000 people in attendance at the Casino Queen on the East St. Louis Riverfront, it was the festival of Festivals. The first for the city where Miles grew up.

With Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Clark Terry, Russell Gunn, Barbara Morrison, Vince Wilburn, Jr., and more distinguished musicians, Jamal’s mastery of piano swept through the City and the Mississippi River like Angels dancing in the night. At least 10,000 people, from both sides of the River left breathlessly satisfied.  

It is said that Miles admired “Jamal’s approach to piano in both the building of tension within his music and the sudden release of it all – the music space that was created by silence was just as important as what was being play.” When Miles was recording Kind of Blue, he asked his pianist to “sound more like Ahmad Jamal.”

Ahmad Jamal’s career spans seven decades covering eras of The Art Form, big band, the Parker / Gillespie era, to the electronic age. Jamal is one of the most sampled composers and recording artists in the world. He is still recording and producing artists, and has just released “Jamal Plays Jamal” on his own label, available from www.ahmadjamal.com.

Ahmad Jamal has been a Steinway Artist for over a half century.

Mr. Jamal formed his own group in 1951 and with the help of John Hammond started his recording career with Okeh Records. That career has continued for over six decades and has resulted in one of the most successful recordings in the history of Instrumental music, “The Ahmad Jamal Trio, at The Pershing”.

The music was chosen by longtime fan Clint Eastwood for “The Bridges Of Madison County” and featured prominently in “The Wolf Of Wall Street”. It is also used in dance companies all over the world, and continues to make musical history.

Ahmad Jamals myriad awards are noted at AhmadJamal.com include: Grammy Lifetime Achievement 2017, The NEA Masters Award, Kennedy Center Legend Award, French Government Awards, Malaysian Awards, Doctor of Music, Honoris Causa, New England Conservatory Of Music, which reads: “Ahmad Jamal, Jazz pianist, one of foremost leaders of small ensembles. An innovative great who drew from and influenced idioms from the big band era to bebop to cool jazz to electronic styles. An American Jazz Master who inspired such important figures as Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie Hancock. Renowned for his exquisite touch, profound grace, and mercurial improvisational choices. For seven decades he’s been sharing his inimitable and unique voice with jazz lovers the world over.”

Ron Carter

Ron Carter

Ron Carter has earned six honorary doctorates, Manhattan School of Music (1998), from the New England Conservatory of Music (1999), Berklee (2005), University of Rochester (2010), University of Michigan, (2016) and Juilliard (2018).

He was the 2002 recipient of the prestigious Hutchinson Award from the Eastman School at the University of Rochester

In 2021 he received the Satchmo Award from the Louis Armstrong Foundation for his lasting contribution to jazz as an educator.

In 2021 the Japanese government awarded him The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for his contributions to Japan-US relations in the field of music.  Carter was honored by the French Minister of Culture with France’s premier cultural award, the medallion and title of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, given to those who have distinguished themselves in the domain of artistic or literary creation and for their contribution to the spread of arts and letters in France and the world.

He was named “Outstanding Bassist of the Decade” by the Detroit News, Jazz Bassist of the Year by Downbeat magazine, and Most Valuable Player by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

In 2015 Carter earned a Guinness World Record as the most recorded jazz bassist with 2,221 recordings. Since that time he has recorded hundreds more.

In 2022 he won with Skyline for best Jazz Instrumental Album with the Skyline Trio.  In 1993, Carter earned a Grammy award for Best Jazz Instrumental Group, the Miles Davis Tribute Band and another Grammy in 1986 for “Call Sheet Blues”, an instrumental composition from the film, Round Midnight.

Best of all, he was loved and admired by Miles Davis.

Ron is among the most original, prolific, and influential bassists in jazz. He has recorded over 2200 albums, and has a Guinness world record to prove it!

In Jazz: Over his 60 year career, he has recorded with so many of the jazz greats greats: Lena Horne, Bill Evans, B.B. King, Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, Bobby Timmons, Eric Dolphy, Cannonball Adderley and Jaki Byard to name a few. From 1963 to 1968, he was a member of the acclaimed Miles Davis Quintet.

In other genres: After leaving the quintet he embarked on a prolific 50-year free lance career that spanned vastly different music genres and continues to this day. He recorded with Aretha Franklin, appeared on the seminal hip-hop album Low End Theory with a Tribe Called Quest, wrote and recorded pieces for string quartets and Bach chorales for 2-8 basses and accompanied Danny Simmons on a spoken word album.

As a leader: Carter spends at least half the year on worldwide tours with his various groups. The Ron Carter Trio, The Ron Carter quartet, the Ron Carter Nonet and Ron Carter’s Great Big Band. He has recorded multiple albums with his groups.

As an author: Carter shares his expertise in the series of books he authored, where he explains his creative process and teaches bassists of all levels to improve their skills and develop their own unique sound. He also penned his autobiography “Finding the Right Notes” which is available in print and also as an audiobook read by the Maestro himself.

As a teacher: Carter has lectured, conducted, and performed at clinics and master classes, instructing jazz ensembles and teaching the business of music at numerous universities. He was Artistic Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Studies while it was located in Boston and, after 18 years on the faculty of the Music Department of The City College of New York, he is now Distinguished Professor Emeritus, he currently teaches at Manhattan School of Music.

Keyon Harrold (The Mugician)

Keyon Harrold

In 2009, Keyon Harrold released his solo debut, Introducing Keyon Harrold and then won wide acclaim for his trumpet performances in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead. The Mugician is a portmanteau of “musician” and “magician, a nod to a nickname Cheadle bestowed upon the young virtuoso, and it’s an apt descriptor for a record that pushes beyond the traditional boundaries of jazz trumpet. In fact, the album doesn’t even begin with trumpet, but rather with a track called ‘Voicemail,’ which features an inspirational message from Harrold’s mother set to a stirring, orchestral soundscape. Entirely unedited, her words lay the groundwork for an album that celebrates the importance of family (ten of Keyon’s siblings appear on the record) and the absolute necessity of optimism in the face of darkness and doubt.

These days, Harrold is a parent himself, and he pays tribute to his son with a pair of tracks on the album, “Lullaby” and “Bubba Rides Again.” Issues of identity and equality percolate throughout the record, sometimes subtly beneath the surface, sometimes more pointedly, as in “Circus Show.” However, the album’s most powerful moments come with the one-two punch of “MB Lament” and “When Will It Stop,” songs written in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and the senseless killings of so many others like him.

Keyon Harrold was born and raised in Ferguson, MO, the St. Louis suburb that tore into America’s national consciousness in 2014 with the police shooting of Michael Brown and the bitter protests and riots that followed. While Ferguson looms large in Harrold’s album The Mugician, it examines our troubled times through a far wider lens than any one tragedy. Sweeping and cinematic, the music draws on elements of jazz, classicval, rock, blues, and hip hop to create something uniquely modern, unmistakably American. Guests including Pharoahe Monch, Gary Clark, Jr., Big K.R.I.T., Guy Torry, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Robert Glasper add to the record’s eclectic nature, but it ultimately triumphs as a unified, cohesive whole both because of Harrold’s virtuosic skill as a trumpeter and songwriter and because of his relentlessly optimistic belief in brighter days to come.

Harrold grew up one of 16 children in a family that prioritized music and community across generations. His grandfather was a police officer who retired from the force to found a drum and bugle corps for local youth, both of his parents were pastors, and nearly all of his siblings sing and perform music today. Culture shock hit Harrold hard at 18, when he left Ferguson for New York City to enroll in The New School. In New York, he landed his first major gig with Common, an experience which he says broadened his musical horizons beyond jazz to include funk, Afrobeat, R&B, and hip hop. Soon he was performing with stars like Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem, Maxwell, and Anthony Hamilton.

Russell Gunn

Russell Gunn

Russell Gunn was born October 20, 1971 in Chicago and raised in East St. Louis Il. He went to the same high school as Miles Davis and is one of the original Young Lions from Lincoln Senior High.

He has produced two Grammy nominated recordings, Ethnomusicology vol. 1 and Vol.2 on the Atlantic Records and Justin Time labels.

His initial musical interest was American Hip Hop/Rap Music.

In 1989 while still in high school in East St. Louis, IL. Gunn was named the best all around trumpet player in the country in a field that included college and professional trumpet players by Music Fest USA sponsored by Downbeat magazine.

Even though Russell had scholarship offers to many major universityʼs including Berklee School of Music, Russell decided to attend a Historically Black University, Jackson State University in Mississippi, where he was a Jazz Studies major and marched in the award winning marching band the Sonic Boom of The South.

Russell moved to New York from the St. Louis area in 1993 where he became a member of the Wynton Marsalis big band now known as Jazz At Lincoln Center and was in the trumpet section with Marcus Printup and Roger Ingram on the Pulitzer Prize winning Jazz Oratorio composed by Wynton “Blood On The Fields”

Russell is the founder, composer, and director of the contemporary big band, ‘The Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra’, which has two releases to date, “Get It How You Live” and “Pyramids” on the Ropeadope Label.

His first recording was in 1993 with the great Alto saxophonist and native of St. Louis, The founder of the World Saxophone Quartet, Oliver Lake. With a “Tribute to Eric Dolphy”.

As a trumpet player Russell has performed and toured with a whoʼs who in contemporary music including Oliver Lake, Branford Marsalisʼ Buckshot LeFonque, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Maxwell, DʼAngelo, Angie Stone, Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove big band, Lou Reed, Cee Lo Green, Ne-Yo, Marcus Miller, Benny Golson, Young Jeezy, Joi, Les Nubian, and Harry Connick Jr. among others.

Erika Johnson

Erika Johnson
(Young Lion) Erika Johnson is a master educator, activist and vocalist who has been active in the St. Louis Metropolitan music community for many years and is known for teaching from the cradle to college.  A native of East St. Louis, Erika began singing with the Lincoln Senior High School Jazz Band and went on to Jackson State University to perform with the big jazz band for three years.  As a student of bebop and vocalese, Ms. Johnson is known for her word scatting style with influences from Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks, Betty Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dianne Reeves.  Moving back to St. Louis, she began a long stint at Spruill’s International Catering with legendary saxophonist Willie Akins.  Some of her accolades include: 

  • The Voice of 88.7 WSIE 1997 – 2005
  • The Blue Note in Italy and the Detroit Jazz Festival with James Carter’s organ trio
  • Featured vocalist with The Cab Calloway Big Band
  • Opening act for – Dakota Staton, Betty Wright, Morris Day and the Time, Boyz to Men 
  • Co-Founder of Street Reach – A free Arts Summer Camp for inner city youth
  • Recent release of a new Album – Raising Standards, recorded by students and produced by upcoming young talent.
Currently, Erika is the Vice President for the St. Louis Blues Society and a board member of the University City Symphony Orchestra.  As an advocate for music education, Ms. Johnson has helped raise funds and started programs to promote fine arts in schools, recorded educational programming in conjunction with the Sheldon Concert Hall and continues her grassroots efforts to help as many up-and-coming artists as she can through her work at Central Visual and Performing Arts in South St. Louis city. 

Ms. Johnson’s educational background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree – Business Administration – Marketing – Harris Stowe State University
  • Master’s Degree – Education – Learning, Culture and Society – SIUE
  • Pursuing a doctorate in Education for college access and Career Readiness – UMSL

Vince Wilburn, Jr.

Vince Wilburn, Jr.
Vince Wilburn, Jr., nephew of late jazz icon Miles Davis, oversees Miles Davis Properties, LLC, along with Erin Davis (son of Miles) and Cheryl Davis (daughter of Miles).  Wilburn, Jr. is a highly accomplished drummer, producer and radio host, who has both toured and recorded with Miles on many legendary recordings from 1984 through 1987, including:  The GRAMMY-Award winning album “AURA” — which he co-produced; “Decoy” – which he also co-produced; “You’re Under Arrest”, and the 2008 GRAMMY nominated “Miles From India” – which hit #8 on the Billboard jazz charts. Wilburn, Jr. also toured internationally with the All-Star “Miles From India” ensemble to sell-out crowds.

More recently, Wilburn, Jr. performed with the Miles Electric Band to sold-out crowds at SF Jazz Center (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018), Billboard Live in Osaka and Tokyo, and at Australia’s Blues Fest (2017), Lotos Jazz Festival (2014), and at the Hollywood Bowl (2012) and Playboy Jazz Festival (2018). The 2012 Bowl event celebrated the launch of the USPS and La Post (France) issued Miles Davis/Edith Piaf Forever stamps. To date, the stamp has sold more than 23 million units and is by far the top selling celebrity stamp.  

Wilburn, Jr. is also a key participant on industry panels taking place at the GRAMMY Museum, GRAMMY Career Day, SXSW, SF MusicTech Summit, MondoNYC, and CBGB’s in addition to partnering with Apple for their “Meet The Musicians” series at Apple SoHo.  He is also a co-host of Miles Davis House at SXSW with Erin Davis, an annual day party featuring a wide cross section of multi-genre, emerging talent.

In 1989, he founded Nefdrum Productions and has been busy with numerous  projects, featuring all-star performances by music icons Billy Preston, Ray Parker, Jr., Bernard Fowler, Darryl Jones, Charley Drayton, Ivan Neville, Wah Wah Watson, Freddie Washington, Randy Hall and Phil Upchurch among others. 

He was highly influential in putting together the record-breaking cross-genre release entitled “Everything Is Beautiful,” a reimagined project, produced by GRAMMY winning artist Robert Glasper, which features contemporary artists paying tribute to the classic work of Miles Davis. “Everything Is Beautiful” scored impressive first week chart numbers including:  #1 Jazz; #10 R&B/Hip Hop; #152 Top 200, and #5 Top current R&B.  The project was influenced by the great success of a re-mix EP that Wilburn, Jr. co-produced with Nas and Santana called “Evolution of the Groove.

Vincent also served as producer of the feature film “Miles Ahead” starring Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor. The “Miles Ahead” soundtrack won a GRAMMY for “Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.” He’s an active member of NARAS. 

Episode 201 (COMING SOON)

Miles Davis: The Music Panel

It was the Summer of Miles 2021. We gathered to celebrate Miles Davis’ 95 birthday, which kicked off 100-Years of Miles for 2026. Ahmad Jamal, Ron Carter and Miles Davis’ nephew-drummer Vince Wilburn, Jr (among others) headlined the 20th Anniversary Musician panel of the Miles Davis Festival (formerly Miles Davis Arts Festival).

WSIE’s Christiann presented the Musician panel from the studios of Southern Illinois University with the utmost care and appreciation of every detail. Learn more about our guests below and return for Conversations on Miles: The Man, The Music, The Milieu. Don’t miss a note. Sign up to receive news and updates on the Miles Davis Festival futurism project.

The 20th Anniversary Music Roundtable panel

The Music Roundtable panel includes: Ahmad Jamal, Ron Carter (played with Miles), Jason Brown, (Young Lion/Educator), Keyon Harrold (played Trumpet for Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead movie), Young Lion Russell Gunn (Grammy nominee 2x), Erika Johnson (Educator and jazz vocalist), and Vince Wilburn, Jr. (played with Uncle Miles). WSIE Radio show-host Christiann is moderator. (The Young Lion musicians walked the same halls at Lincoln High School as Miles Davis did.)


Check out the MilesVillians feature. The 2021 Miles Davis Panel of “Milesvillians” features Quincy Troupe, poet, professor, and Miles Davis co-auto-biographer and documentarian; Dr. Eugene B. Redmond, professor, author and Poet Laureate of East St. Louis; Reginald Petty, Historical Society; Lauren Parks, President & Co-Founder of the House of Miles; Dr. Michael Datcher, poet, bestselling author, professor; and Ronald Carter professor, bandleader, music historian. Darlene Roy, poet, author and President of the Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club is the moderator.  

Recap & Takeaways

Miles Davis’ style is characterized by GQ Magazine as “one of the best dressed men of the twentieth century. Miles: The Milieu was prerecorded and hosted by Missouri History Museum for the 20th Anniversary of Miles Davis Festival; and Davis’ 95 birthday. Make sure you complete the trilogy of the 20th anniversary podcasts of The Man, The Music, The Milieu. Missouri History Museum’s moderator Magdalene Linck takes us from Miles Davis’ roots in East St. Louis, to his reign as the Arch (Bebop) bishop of Jazz, to the Miles Davis futurism of today with panelists Dr. Ben Cawthra, curator of MILES: A Miles Davis Retrospective; Becki Hartke, designer and project manager of MILES; Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, Jr; and Vincent Bessières, curator at the Musée de la Musique/Cite de la Musique, which presented We Want Miles in 2010.

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Miles exhibited a mastery and a deep perception of music, art, fashion, and style. He is one of GQ’s “50 Most Stylish Men of the Past 50 Years.” and we are eager to delve into these dichotomies on this exciting journey to 100 Years of Miles in 2026. You can unsubscribe anytime by clicking the link at the bottom of each email. Also, visit our privacy policy for more information about your subscription.

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