November 14, 2005
Random Chance Records RCD22
Dating from an interregnum between a late career return to more progressive surroundings and earlier experimental work, PEACE WARRIOR reissues two sessions which add to under-recorded Philadelphia vibraphonist Khan Jamals scant discography. Its too bad the 10 selections couldnt have more musical meat on the rather lightweight frame.
Born in 1946, by the early 1980s Jamal had already put in time with players like drummer Sunny Murray, fiddler Billy Bang and South African bassist Johnny Dyani. Recently hes recorded in the company of Free Jazzs Lower East Side division: pianist Matthew Ship and bassist William Parker.
Still Jamals vibes style has never been particularly complex as he demonstrates here. Three quarters of the tunes were a 1989 Stash LP called DONT TAKE NO! also the first selection here the final three are from 1982s INFINITY. With a coupler of exceptions, all seem to flirt with the beginnings of smooth jazz.
Preferring an unhurried andante tempo, Khan is not the most assertive of players. This tendency towards the lightweight is intensified by the synthesizer and electric piano work of Mark Kramer and Khans use of a KAT midi percussion synthesizer on the first two tracks. The second, Scandinavian Dawn, has a catchy melody in a Pat Metheny-like style, helped by guitarist Monette Sudlers comping, but the performance is a little too simple and soothing. Elsewhere, her glossy licks stray a little too often into George Benson territory.
Dates dont make much difference either. An almost nine-minute run-through of Nubian Queen, the vibists signature tune, is given a tranquil, low-key reading on one track recorded in 1982. Its buoyed by a Latinesque backbeat from percussionist Omar Hill and unison theme elaboration from Byard Lancasters flute and Khans instrument. An echoing example of gentle swing, only Bernard Sammuls double timing piano licks inject enthusiasm.
The pianists own The Angry Young Man and Three for All, written by the 1989 dates keyboardist Mark Kramer are the only pulse risers on the set. The later has sluicing vibe textures, single-note accented riffs from the guitarist and cross-patterned drumming from Dwight James. McCoy Tyner-like modal tones from the pianist and high concept walking bass from Reggie Curry give The Angry Young Man an agitato stance. Contrapuntal, Sammuls rough syncopation forces the vibist into quick moving glissandi and portamento.
Other pieces suggest Khan as an enervated Milt Jackson, and even One For Hamp lacks the free fore all-out excitement you associate with Lionel Hampton. Notes are half heartedly pummeled, but lack ringing sustain.
Fans of the smooth jazz 1980s and Jamal completists are likely the only market for this disc.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Don't Take No!+ 2. Scandinavian Dawn+ 3. Peaceful Warrior 4. One for Hamp 5. Three For All 6. Hip Out 7. Body and Soul 8. Nubian Queen* 9. Lovely Afternoon* 10. Angry Young Man*
Personnel: Byard Lancaster (alto saxophone and flutes); Khan Jamal (vibraphone, marimba and KAT midi percussion synthesizer+); Mark Kramer (piano and synthesizer); Bernard Sammul* (piano); Monette Sudler (guitar [tracks 1-7]); Warren Otree or Reggie Curry* (bass); Dwight James (drums); Omar Hill* (percussion).