Wednesday, December 06, 2006


THE KHAN JAMAL CREATIVE ARTS ENSEMBLE - Drumdance to the Motherland CD (Eremite)
Certainly one of the best reissues of '06. The cover is a little deceptive, so don't let that put you off (Aquarius beautifully described it as looking like "some crappy new age CD you'd buy in an art gallery in New Mexico, while picking up some healing crystals"). This is in fact a first-time on-CD (or should I say, "first-time-out-of-Philadelphia") reissue of a hideously rare and much-sought-after LP from 1973, originally issued in a pressing of 300 copies and, I assume, sans cover (hence the garish-looking beast you are currently eyeballing).

The name Khan Jamal is not widely known outside of jazz-collector-dork circles - I only know him through a few other sideman appearances on Eremite - though he's obviously been kicking around for a while, and played w/ the likes of Sunny Murray and Byard Lancaster way back in the '60s, but anyway... Why is this release getting people like me all a-buzz out there? I guess you could say it's the constant "King Tubby-meets-Sun Ra" comparisons getting bandied about. Now that's enough to pique the interest of... well, just about any jazz-collector-dork you may care to mention, which puts me fair and square in the purchasing demographic.

Jamal plays vibraphone in a quintet setting here, recorded live at the Catacombs Club, Philadelphia, October 6 or 7 (no-one knows), 1972. Accompanied by glockenspiel, marimba, guitar and Fender bass, the first track, "Cosmic Echoes" has strong tones of Jewels Of Thought/Deaf Dumb & Blind-period Pharoah Sanders running through it, with a sea of clattering percussion and squawling reeds, though what sets the bulk of the album apart from other "cosmic jazz" releases of its day is the plain weird and other-worldly dub production its caked in. Everything echoes, sounding, as has been noted time and time again, like King Tubby or Lee Perry controlling the decks at a mid-'60s Sun Ra recording. Or Joe Meek producing Pharoah Sanders in a cave. Or Syd Barrett leading the Arkestra w/ Conny Plank at the helm. Ladies, I could do this aaall night, but I'll spare you the lazy comparisons. This is a gem uncovered, dusted off and available to you for a reasonable price. Couldn't ask for more than that!

Speaking of reasonable prices, check out this sucka on ebay. As I write this right now, the Velvet Underground acetate disc I speak of is hovering at just over the US$128,000 mark. My mother always had a saying about a fool and his money, but I'll spare the sermonising.

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