Ahmad Jamal: This word we call “jazz,” leaves something in me wanting. The only two art forms that developed in the United States, in my opinion: American Indian art, and this thing we call jazz. I’m not paranoid about the word, but they never intended for this to be a sophisticated, to say the least, art form, and one that’s instrumental in putting up buildings like the one we’re in: the JALC Building. This is what happens in the jazz community, so it’s up to us to redefine what we want to call it. I coined that phrase some years ago -- “American Classical Music” -- because that’s just what it is. Duke didn’t call himself a jazz musician. George Shearing is multidimensional, like all of us are. He could play a Mozart concerto, and he could write "Lullaby of Birdland." You’re not going to find that in the European classical community, this multidimensional ability. One-dimensional most of the time -- 90 percent of the time -- when you talk about European classicists. In order for us to be successful, Jo, we have to know the best of both worlds. I was playing Franz Liszt when I was ten years old, in competition, and I can’t play it now because I have to stick to what pays the bill, and the American classical music is what I prefer. And I still am able to run through my basic repertoire when it comes to the European classical music, but I also can run through the repertoire of American classical music as well. So when people come to me, say, “Oh, I play classical music,” get away from me. I don’t want to hear that. I play classical music, too. Duke played classical music. Ben Webster, who gave me a pair of cufflinks when I was a kid, he played classical music, and Paul Gonsalves -- all of us are classicists. But it’s up to us to redefine what we want to call our art form. I’m the one that took a straightforward, pioneering approach, and called it “American classical music,” I just talked to a man who calls his program -- Al Carter-Bey in Chicago -- he calls it “American classical music in a jazz idiom.” So I don’t care who gets credit for it; it’s being echoed all over the world now. That’s what it is.
Yet, even though he has had such celebrated career as one of the great jazz innovators, Jamal still takes issue with the label "jazz." [2:09]