Drum Dance to the Motherland

by Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble

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CD available from eremite.com

there's not another record on the planet that sounds even remotely like vibraphonist khan jamal's eccentric, one-of-a-kind masterpiece, drumdance to the motherland. in its improbable fusion of free jazz expressionism, black psychedelia, & full-on dub-like production techniques, drumdance remains a bracingly powerful outsider statement thirty-four years after it was recorded live at the catacombs club in philadelphia in 1972. comparisons to sun ra, king tubby, phil cohran & byg/actuel merely hint at the cosmic otherness conjured by the band & by recording engineer mario falana's real-time "enhancements." The original edition of three hundred copies, issued by jamal in 1973 on the local philadelphia label dogtown, was barely distributed outside the city's limits. since then drumdance has assumed a mythic status among the very few aficionados, e-bay mutants, & heads who know of it at all. hallelujah that it can finally be heard outside their murky inner-sanctums! reissue artwork by the legendary dr. e pelikan chalto.

Jesus. Forget what you know. Every now and then, a record comes along that sneaks up on you and punches you in the back in the head so hard, it sends you reeling for days. This is one of them. Recorded live in 1972, this holy grail private press album by vibraphonist Khan Jamal probably qualifies as a "jazz" record, but not as this world knows it, as it sounds like it was recorded in a spaceship, an echo chamber, and a cave all at once, which makes it virtually impossible to put a timestamp on. The dubbed-out percussion intro of "Cosmic Echoes" sounds like Sun Ra overseeing an Aggrovators session, yet strangely contemporary, and it only gets more inspired and unfathomable from there. The extended free jazz shocks (complete with recording engineer's mystery effects!) and cosmic black psychedelia dreamed up by this underground Philly collective explores outsider worlds that Actuel never knew existed, and emits a kind of smoke ESP-Disk never had a whiff of. Drumdance to the Motherland will render a majority of your record collection somewhat useless, but you're going to want to take that gamble. Utterly unique and essential document from way left of center. --[AK], Othermusic

Vibraphonist Khan Jamal has been around since the mid-1960s, and his Drumdance to the Motherland--recorded in 1972 Philadelphia, released this year on Michael Ehlers' flawless Eremite label--reveals an ensemble approach to rhythm calisthenics on par with anything Sun Ra, Beaver Harris, or Sam Rivers cooked up. This 12-minute beast is a percussion smorgasbord, with any number of the quintet's members--Jamal, bassist Billy Mills, guitarist Monnette Sudler, and percussionists Alex Ellison and Dwight James--taking on the sidewinding pulse and bending, twisting, and reinventing its magic to his will. Dig: Jamal's vibes solo seven minutes into this jam is just as third-eye jubilant as anything Konono No. 1 has kicked out. --Bret Mccabe, Baltimore City Paper Online

In all my perambulations during these decades of record hunting, i have never seen a copy of khan jamal's drumdance to the motherland. it's so rare that i'd never even heard of it, despite liking jamal & generally looking for unusual 1970s free-jazz. &, despite the fact that it has now been lovingly reissued, i still have no idea what the record looks like. so, let's get extra geeky & talk about record covers. when eremite repackaged drumdance, they put a nice new image on it. the original issue, on the microscopic dogtown label from philadelphia, came with individually designed covers, a probable nod to jamal's then-fellow philadelphians in sun ra's arkestra, who regularly decorated records by hand, often just before a big gig. there's more than just the cover about drumdance that's ra-esque. wave upon wave of tape delay recalls the ra lps, nearly a decade earlier on which drummer tommy 'bugs' hunter first accidently put the microphone into the wrong jack & discovered the supernatural, spaced-out powers of over-driven echo. jamal's is a fantastic record, with funky grooves & maniacal blowing periodically reflected in the funhouse mirror of slapback. jamal's vibraphone & marimba are, in some sections, featured in an unfettered & undistorted way. it's a real treat, as is monnette sudler's aggressive guitar. an absolutely unique lp, drumdance is testament to the liberating powers of the underground, the shared do-it-yourself mentality that links fringe jazz & punk. hats off to eremite for dredging it up, even with its new visage. --John Corbett, Downbeat

Originally released on obscure Philadelphia label Dogtown, Drumdance to the Motherland has long been a sought after collector's item of early 70s underground free jazz. Literally underground: it was recorded in a basement coffeehouse in October 1972, & features Jamal on vibraphone, marimba & clarinet, Alex Ellison & Dwight James on drums, percussion & clarinet, Billy Mills on bass & Fender bass, & Monnette Sudler on guitar & percussion. Titles like "Drum Dance" indicate there is plenty of deep African groove on offer, but thanks to the input of sound engineer Mario Falana, whose use of reverb is so outstandingly musical he deserves to be listed as a group member in his own right, the album sounds nothing like any of the other extended riff workouts that appeared in the early 70s when the major labels tried to move in on free jazz. On "Inner Peace," the combination of Mill's loping bass riff, Sudler's cool bluesy guitar licks -more Montgomery than McLaughlin-- & the kind of raucous shrieking clarinet Arthur Doyle would be proud of is truly striking. & in Falana's hands, the gently cycling riffs of "Breath of Life" sound not so much spaced out as otherworldly --even without the kind of chemical stimulation one suspects helped inspire The Creative Arts Ensemble & their producer, you wouldn't be surprised if someone told you this was a mid-90s release on Thrill Jockey beamed back through time. --Dan Warburton, The Wire

credits

released July 26, 2017

Jamal: vibraphone, marimba, clarinet
Alex Ellison: drums, percussion
Mario Falana: sound effects
Dwight James: drums, glockenspiel, clarinet
Billy Mills: fender bass, double bass
Monnette Sudler: guitar, percussion

06 or 07 October 1972, Catacombs Club, Philadelphia PA
original producer: Khan Jamal
producer for eremite: Michael Ehlers
engineer: Mario Falana
reissue artwork: Dr. E. Pelikan Chalto
liner notes: Ed Hazell

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