The Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble Drum Dance to the Motherland

The Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble Drum Dance to the Motherland

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There is a lot going on this 1972 live performance release by Khan Jamal. Some of it is shockingly prescient and contemporary, touching on Miles Davis, Sun Ra, dub and straight-up modal jazz. The first thing one notices is the reverb and echo effects done live in concert by engineer Mario Falana. While much has been made in terms of likening the effect to King Tubby and reggae dub aesthetics, there is more of a nod to proto-Velvet Underground alumnus Angus MacLise's psychedelic washes than Lee Perry. Dwight James' and Alex Ellison's drum and percussion bounce back and forth from echo chamber crashes to dry sparse groove: a testament to the musicality and taste of the mixologist.
 
Khan Jamal's vibes, marimba and clarinet also find their way into the dub, but less obviously than the drums, which points to listening to the actual mix live and improvising with that. Billy Mills' bass work slides in and out of the listening range in the flurry, showing up more when he plays electric, and when that happens, the spooky Miles grooves emerge.
 
One of the real standouts on this work is Monette Sudler; one of the only, if not the only woman playing guitar in the Black Art Music scene (or any jazz scene) back then. Her solid jazz sound sometimes seems at odds with the vibe, but it's tasteful and skilled work with a tight, expressive solo asserting itself on "Cosmic Echoes."
 
Psychedelia, smooth groove jazz and Afro-futurism, there's lot to like here and a lot to consider how far ahead the community was back then. (Eremite)