Once thought-destroyed recordings of Philly jazz pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali and experimental jazz vibraphone and marimba player Khan Jamal have been re-discovered.
Philadelphia jazz is a deep wide wonderful well of visceral, subtle and-or beautiful sound. A well so deep and long that, not only can one get lost seeking out its clearest coolest waters. Sometimes some of its finest moments get lost in the sauce. That’s what makes the month of May so unique. Not only is a rare album from Philly vibraphonist Khan Jamal, Infinity, released, so too is an album from local pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali, Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album.
Khan Jamal was already on a progressive jazz tip at the end of the 1970s, before recording Infinity in 1984 in Ambler. With Infinity session men, saxophonist Byard Lancaster, drummer Dwight James and percussionist Omar Hill, Jamal was already vibe-ing as part of the experimental Germantown jam band Sounds of Liberation with Monette Sudler, Billy Mills and Rashid Salime.
Max Ochester’s Dogtown Records and Brewerytown Beats released Sounds of Liberation’s Unreleased Columbia University radio session from 1973, in 2019. So there’s already a move to re-discover lost Jamal work. Infinity, however, is more at peace with itself, more soulful and definitely on the spiritual tip as his explorations on vibraphone and marimba, with Clifton Burton on harmonica and additional drummer (and Coltrane acolyte) Sunny Murray, makes for some truly simmering, holy workouts.
Championed by Max Roach and hailed as one of the most innovative pianists known (or not so known) to jazz, pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali gathered up some of his most beloved Philly friends, tenor saxophonist Odean Pope, bassist Art Davis, bass and drummer Kalil Madi, brought them into two late summer 1965 sessions at Atlantic Studios in New York City, and jammed.
The only thing more incredible than hearing these forever thought-destroyed tapes is knowing and listening for the manic complexity of a pianist who had worked hard with dynamic drummer Roach (1964’s The Max Roach Trio Featuring The Legendary Hasaan), and played with John Coltrane (Odean Pope used to say that Coltrane’s epic sheets of sound and the harmonic approach behind Coltrane’s Giant Steps came from Hasaan) only to come through it all with his own experimental brand of rapid-fire soul intact.