Vibraphonist Khan Jamal's fourth session for CIMP finds the veteran in the company of old friends for a relaxed atmosphere in which to blow. Longtime collaborator Byard Lancaster plays a sweetly inflected alto that's also capable of a bite. Trombonist Grachan Moncur III stays low-key, most times preferring understatement. Bassist Dylan Taylor and drummer Dwight James keep the pot stirred, while Jamal remains his own man, dwelling on a repetitive line, toying with an innocent melody, or launching dizzying patterns that buy tension from juxtaposed time signatures.
Jamal contributes a jaunty march with vague echoes of Monk and Ayler in "One Comes First, paving the way for a concise statement from Moncur. Taylor keeps his own variations coming, with James steady on cymbals and unpredictable on snare. Lancaster delivers a studied series of improvs, while Jamal stays playful. Moncur's "Riff Raff spins a darker landscape, which Lancaster paints blue. The trombonist plays it sparse, making every note count. Jamal creates a solo that's as much about time change as melodic variation.
A reverent gospel-inspired tune, "Believe, evokes an inspirational beauty through the call and response of Moncur and Lancaster. The unusual time of "Black Awareness finds Lancaster removing his gloves, and he comes out blowing like a jet. Moncur takes a well manicured solo, then Jamal plays like a patio of breezed wind chimes.
Jamal goes solo on "Nubian Queen, creating an appealing calypso. Moncur steps up to take a lean look at Jamal's "Bloom. Lancaster enters from the top of his range and slides down to the honk. Jamal dances with a set of complex two handed structures and the band rejoins for the coda. Archie Shepp's theme, Moncur's "Sonny's Back, Pt. 1 & 2, gets a joyous reading with the trombonist stretching out and Jamal staying knee-deep in the blues.
Black Awareness offers a pleasant hour with the Khan Jamal Quintet and an accessible look at this unappreciated jazz legend.
Track Listing: One Comes First; Riff Raff; Believe; Black Awareness; Nubian Queen; Bloom; Sonnys Back
Pt. 1 & 2.