Born: July 23, 1946 Primary Instrument: Vibraphone
Khan Jamal has been playing the vibraphone and marimbas in the Philadelphia and NYC area as well as touring extensively in Europe for going on 4 decades. Having studied at Granoff School of Music and Combs College as well as with Bill Lewis, the Philadelphia vibraphonist, he began an association with the renowned improvisational drummer, Sunny Murray back in the 60's that has lasted to this day. His appetite for all ranges of music and a distaste for marketing himself not uncommon among gifted performers has led to a lack of notoriety, except among fellow artists who acknowledge his skill and musical leadership. Uncomfortable with the label jazz, as are many of his fellow muscians, Khan prefers the term creative improvised music. Some of his explorations with David Murray, Frank Wright and Sunny Murray led him to be tagged as an avant garde musician, playing primarily abstract 'out' music. The label illustrates formal jazz criticism's tendency to use sophisticated analysis as a mask for pigeonholing and consequently rendering an incomplete perspective. And, coincidentally, perpetuating the same old thing. As Sun Ra said, 'they're on the right road all the time, they're going the wrong direction'. In fact, recordings such as 'Thinking of You' reveal more of Khan's sensibility and accessibility even to inexperienced music listeners, playing with a warmth and joy that would surprise his avant garde labelists.
I first heard Khan 20 yrs ago, performing at the Tin Palace in NYC, which then had a format for new music on Sundays. Since then I have heard him perform many times in the Philadelphia area, though not near frequent enough for a player of his stature and gifts. I always look forward to his performances, I call them 'music lessons', his playing always in touch with a pure sense of melody like a guideline thru imagination. There was a time, now years back at a club called the Gaslight in Mt. Holly, N.J., while performing Coltrane's version of 'My Favorite Things', he established a low frequency vibrato thru pedal damping, the vibes literally seeming to 'glow' as he raced over the keys above, much like Coltrane's split register work. The effect was remarkable, enough to merit staying in touch with Khan Jamal, one of many Unsung Heroes (the song Unsung Heroes appears on The Traveller).