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Cool by Khan Jamal

I'll go out on a very short limb by asserting that eminent Philadelphia-based vibist Khan Jamal is one of the true greats in the rather expansive world of progressive jazz and improvisation. On this 2008 released studio date that was originally recorded in 1989, Jamal mans the helm of a brisk chamber-jazz setting, featuring his resonating and memorably melodic compositions. He has this uncanny ability for merging complex structures, tuneful themes, and fierce improvisational maneuvers into a markedly cohesive program.

The vibist launches the festivities with an odd-metered theme, performed in unison with cellist John Rodgers, titled "Professor B.L.". Brimming with punchy accents, Jamal, Rodgers and drummer Dwight James augment the zippy pace with highly energized solo spots. The vibist's solid compositional frameworks include a hauntingly beautiful cello-vibes harmony on the somber and probing "A Dansk Morn." Here, the quartet generates contrasting layers of sound, beefed up by Jamal's linear improv atop James' swooshing cymbals. On a side note, this piece in particular sounds like a perfect backdrop for a serious-minded film documentary.

The band moves forward with grace amid its reverse-engineering of primary motifs, and spiraling rhythmic components. On the final number titled "Cool," Jamal directs his band-mates into an edgy and pumped-up free-bop groove. Sure enough, there's quite a bit to sink your psyche into on this divergent album, where no two pieces sound distinctly alike yet on the other hand, Jamal transmits a state of musical continuity throughout. I feel strongly that admirers of this superfine musician and modern jazz in general, will find themselves giving this gem quite a bit of quality time in their listening space.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Khan Jamal
  • CD Title: Cool
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Porter Records
  • Tracks: Professor B.L., Dansk Morn, Rhythm Thang, Innocence, Six Plus Seven, Mrs. Js Blues, Cool
  • Rating: Five Stars
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