Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Black Awareness / Half Moon


Sign in to view read count
The vibraphone is a relatively new instrument, introduced to the US in 1916 as the "steel marimba. Red Norvo, one of the very first musicians to play it, came to the vibes after playing a lot of xylophone and marimba. Vibraphonists Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson and Gary Burton all made important contributions to the development and musical vocabulary of jazz besides being recognized as virtuoso players. Khan Jamal's Black Awareness and Lalo's Half Moon present two more approaches to the instrument, different from their formidable predecessors and very different from one another.

Khan Jamal
Black Awareness

"One Comes First is the opening tune on Black Awareness, and it has an attractive melody. The solos are fine, if a little low on energy, especially considering what follows. Trombonist Grachan Moncur III's "Riff Raff is also a swinger, but his composition "Believe, which sounds like a cross between the standard "When I Fall in Love and a spiritual, is gorgeous, Moncur and Byard Lancaster (alto) weaving singing lines in between one another.

"Black Awareness is a soaring performance from start to finish and should have been the first track. Lancaster's solo sure has energy to spare, but also has an awareness (no pun intended) of melody, harmony and pacing that is missing from a lot of the music on this label. Moncur's solo follows and again it's a pleasure to hear someone really play musical trombone. Jamal's solo is very interesting, not like a Milt Jackson or Hutcherson solo, which would have had a more linear bebop quality. Here (and in other places on this recording) Jamal plays the vibraphone more like its predecessor, the African balafon. In fact the next track, "Nubian Queen, uses that approach to full effect on a striking, totally solo vibraphone performance, displaying Jamal's truly unique approach to the instrument.

On "Bloom (which is listed as "Blown in the producer's notes, indeed a Freudian slip if ever there was one), again the melody is original but accessible. Moncur solos first and is swinging, melodic and thoughtful. Lancaster's solo follows and is very dynamic, going from a whisper to a scream and back. Next Jamal solos, and after hearing "Nubian Queen (as well as his albums on SteepleChase), you really wish this CD had been recorded differently. The energy of the drums (Dwight James) drives the piece, but the volume of the fills almost buries the sound of the vibes.

Then, if that wasn't enough to make you scream, "Sonny's Back Pt.1 & Pt.2, a blues in C, features Moncur reciting something in the beginning of the piece, which for all intents and purposes is inaudible. The engineer says that this was an "intentional part of the music and not a defect of the recording process. Weapons of mass destruction, anybody? Though I have strong reservations about the way it's recorded—and then "explained" in the liner notes and manifesto, which could be changed to Semper (Low) Fi, Do or Die—the session is well worth your ears.

Half Moon
Kadooga Music

Half Moon suffers from the opposite problem. Instead of a barely produced session of rooted jazz, Lalo's session is slickly produced, sonically pristine, and devoid of much jazz content. The compositions (all by the vibraphonist) are skillfully orchestrated and there is some very good playing by a big cast of musicians. In the liner notes she says, "We decided it [the tune "Seductive Grace ] should be used on the soundtrack to a horror flick and indeed, all the pieces could be good for soundtracks... for rolling credits, for various product commercials, etc. As of right now, Lalo probably wouldn't be mentioned alongside Norvo, Milt Jackson or Hutcherson, but that's not to say Half Moon doesn't have worth.

Visit Lalo on the web.

Tracks and Personnel

Black Awareness

Tracks: One Comes First; Riff Raff; Believe; Black Awareness; Nubian Queen; Bloom; Sonny's Back Pt.1 & Pt.2.

Personnel: Khan Jamal: vibes; Byard Lancaster: alto sax; Grachan Moncur III: trombone: voice; Dylan Taylor: bass; Dwight James: drums.

Half Moon

Tracks: Dreamwalker; Hands; Everyday; Tango for T.Lynn; Adventures of the BQE; Waves; Half Moon; Seductive Grace; Curiosity.

Personnel: Lalo: vibraphone; Madeline Sturm: bass clarinet; Judson Crane: guitar; Ivan Sturm: bass; Ted Poor: drums; Jack Bashkow: flute; Kenny Rampton: trumpet; Nathan Heleine: alto sax; Take Toriyama: drums; Joshua Davis: bass; Andrew Sherman: rhodes; Brad Hubbard: baritone sax; Lionel Loueke: guitar.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money Multiple Reviews Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money
by Doug Collette
Published: December 29, 2017
Read Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition & Rez Abbasi’s Invocation Multiple Reviews Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition & Rez...
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 27, 2017
Read Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk & Najwa Multiple Reviews Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk & Najwa
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read The Original Delaney & Bonnie (Accept No Substitute) and To Bonnie From Delaney Multiple Reviews The Original Delaney & Bonnie (Accept No Substitute)...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read Van Morrison: Roll With The Punches & Versatile Multiple Reviews Van Morrison: Roll With The Punches & Versatile
by Doug Collette
Published: December 17, 2017
Read The Possibilities of Percussion: Yarn/Wire & ensemble, et. al Multiple Reviews The Possibilities of Percussion: Yarn/Wire & ensemble,...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Holiday Roundup 2017" Multiple Reviews Holiday Roundup 2017
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk & Najwa" Multiple Reviews Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk & Najwa
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read "Lee Morgan On Music Matters" Multiple Reviews Lee Morgan On Music Matters
by Greg Simmons
Published: March 6, 2017
Read "Real World Records' Vinyl Reissues" Multiple Reviews Real World Records' Vinyl Reissues
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2017
Read "The Pianist as Director: Ryuichi Sakamoto and August Rosenbaum" Multiple Reviews The Pianist as Director: Ryuichi Sakamoto and August...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 13, 2017
Read "Old, Borrowed and Just a Little Blue" Multiple Reviews Old, Borrowed and Just a Little Blue
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 11, 2017