Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble – Drum Dance to the Motherland
Listening to Kahn Jamal’s lost/underground album Drum Dance to the Motherland is like eavesdropping on conversation between cavemen and space travelers.
Recorded live in a basement coffee house in late 1972, Drum Dance to the Motherland opens, appropriately enough, with a long percussion piece. Jamal’s vibraphone and marimba commune with Dwight James’ drums and glockenspiel and Alex Ellison’s African percussion. The entire performance is bathed in reverb, which adds to the other-worldly experience.
The five-minute “Cosmic Echoes” leads directly into the nearly 14-minute title track. As a clarinet wheezes across a vigorous drum set, one of the band members starts clapping. Briefly, a few others join in. This is free jazz, yes – the clarinet doing an impression of Yoko Ono’s singing is impossible to ignore – but it is also joyful.
“Inner Peace” kicks off side two, emerging gradually before settling into a bluesy funk courtesy of Monnette Sudler’s guitar and Billy Mills’ haunting bassline. Again, the clarinet swoops and dives over the proceedings like a gull trying to snag a meal from the water. “Breath of Life” completes the album with a dreamy, ambient collage.
Drum Dance to the Motherland built a reputation as an extemporaneous, soulful adventure during the more than 30 years it was out of print. Now finally back in print and affordable, intrepid fans of free jazz can examine this work in full glory from the comfort of home. -Joel Francis