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You’re currently reading “kahn jamal,” an entry on metropolis | jazz, free-jazz and improvised music
- 01.10.06 / 4pm
- artist portraits
was born July, 23, 1946. A very talented vibraphonist, Khan Jamal took up the vibes in 1964 and worked early on with the Cosmic Forces and with Byard Lancaster. After further study, Jamal played with Sunny Murray in the late ’70s and in the 1980s with Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society, the bands of Joe Bonner and Billy Bang and his own groups.
Khan Jamal on Eremite Records
The Khan Jamal creative arts ensemble
drumdance to the motherland
Khan Jamal: vibraphone, marimba, clarinet, Alex Ellison: drums, percussion, Dwight James: drums, glockenspiel, clarinet, Billy Mills: fender bass, double bass, Monnette Sudler: guitar, percussion
Tracklist: 1. cosmic echoes (07:48) 2. drum dance (12:40) 3. inner peace (15:51) 4. breath of life (06:47) recorded 6 or 7 october, 1972, Philadelphia
There’s not another record on the planet that sounds even remotely like vibraphonist khan jamal’s eccentric, one-of-a-kind masterpiece, drumdance to the motherland. in its improbable fusion of free jazz expressionism, black psychedelia, & full-on dub-like production techniques, drumdance remains a bracingly powerful outsider statement thirty-four years after it was recorded live at the catacombs club in philadelphia in 1972. comparisons to sun ra, king tubby, phil cohran & byg/actuel merely hint at the cosmic otherness conjured by the band & by recording engineer mario falana’s real-time “enhancements.”
The first edition of three hundred copies, issued by jamal in 1973 on the local philadelphia label dogtown, was barely distributed outside the city’s limits. since then drumdance has assumed a mythic status among the very few aficionados, e-bay mutants, & heads who know of it at all. hallelujah that it can finally be heard outside their murky inner-sanctums!
“Dogtown was an underground philadelphia jazz operation owned (in some part) by saxophonist byard lancaster. in addition to a few records under lancaster’s name, the label issued this forgotten l/p by vibraphonist khan jamal… the first time i heard this, i thought i was listening to something relatively new, a record on siltbreeze or sound-at-one… there are four songs spread across two sides, & the a-side is a free-jazz powerblast that shares no aural companions in the u.s. at the time.
Even comparisons to dense japanese noisemakers like masayuki takayanagi or sabu toyozumi would be a little off the mark. on the other side of the record we are presented with the true sound of “cosmic jazz,” an effects-laden, watercolor portrait of the heavens painted by heavy delayed drums & monnette sudler’s sparkling freak guitar. ask somebody, “do you like jazz music?” & then drop the needle on this platter to watch their face contort into a rapidly changing palette of emotions. someone named mario falgna is credited with “sound effects” & you get the feeling that the “sound effects” might be of the green combustible sort. originally aired live on local philly jazz radio, apparently, the _drum dance to the motherland_ l/p is left to remain as a mobius strip of black energy, twisting & eternal in the face of “making a living” & “real expression.”
Thirty-odd years down the road, the record is more relevant today than it has ever been, for the intensity & anger have faded & we are now left only with the intergalactic vapors of a cast of artists questing for the cosmos through music. if ever a record was ripe for reissue, khan jamal’s invisible release on dogtown is the exact fruit everyone should be trying to harvest.” — waxpoetics, Dante Carfagna
other selected Khan Jamal Recording’s