Khan Jamal is a Philadelphia-area vibist who’s been associated with the avant/free scene in the 1970s (his own recordings and w/ Byard Lancaster and R. Shannon Jackson), who’s kept a somewhat low profile over recent years. Now, like some older free players, he’s mellowed somewhat - or maybe times are catching up with them, or both - but don’t take that to mean he’s joined the Wynton Marsalis Fan Club or The Quiet Storm Society. Stylisticaly, Balafon Dance is free-accented, modal post-bop, with a substantial yet subtle influences of the traditional music of West and South Africa. Jamal’s malletwork is captivating: a warm, woody, measured, almost languorous tone, evoking the tones of Africa and the Caribbean. His melodies have that gospel-inflected "cry" similar to that of much of Abdullah Ibrahim’s music, and KJ’s crew imparts the same sound to the Gershwin evergreen "Summertime." Roy Campbell contributes some parched, bristling, "vocal" trumpet, and what alto guy Jemeel Moondoc lacks in technique (he sounds a bit "thin" at times) he more than makes up for with heartfelt, bluesy, acidic-toned presence. Drummer James is a bit too up-front in the mix and bassist Taylor not heard enough, but they lay down a punchy, solidly swinging foundation for the players to elegantly dance over and with. Overall, this is a sparkling, uncompromising yet thoroughly engaging set.
Artist / Group Name:Khan Jamal Quintet
CD Title:Balafon Dance
Musicians:K.J.: vibes, balafon; J. Moondoc: alto sax; Roy Campbell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dylan Taylor: bass; Dwight James: drums.