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Ahmed Abdul-Malik was one of the first musicians to integrate non-Western musical elements into jazz. In addition to being a hard bop bassist of some distinction, he also played the oud, a double-stringed, unfretted Middle Eastern lute, played with a plectrum. Abdul-Malik recorded on the instrument in the '50s with Johnny Griffin and in 1961 with John Coltrane, contributing to one of the several albums that resulted from the latter's Live at the Village Vanguard sessions.
The artist also recorded several dates under his own name for RCA and Prestige, that were not only refreshingly new in their meld of Middle Eastern sounds with jazz, they were critically lauded as well. These recordings include: Jazz Sahara (1958), East Meets West (1959), The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1961), Sounds of Africa (1962), Eastern Moods of Ahmed Abdul Malik (1963) and Spellbound (1964).
Abdul-Malik was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. In his twenties and thirties, he worked as a bassist with Art Blakey, Randy Weston, and Thelonious Monk, among others. He played the oud on a tour of South America under the aegis of the U.S. State Department, and performed at one of the first major African jazz festivals in Morocco in 1972. Beginning in 1970, he taught at New York University and later, Brooklyn College. In 1984, he received BMI's Pioneer in Jazz Award in recognition of his work in melding ancient and modern music. In 1993, just after his death, and continuing into the 21st century, Abdul-Malik's recordings, mostly forgotten by all but ardent jazz fans, began to be reissued with regularity until his entire catalog was back in print in numerous formats by 2013.