The influential jazz vibraphonist Khan Jamal died in Philadelphia on Monday (January 10), WBGO reports. He was 75. Khan played with Sunny Murray in the ’70s, in Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society in the early ’80s, did time with the Sun Ra Arkestra and later formed Cosmic Forces with some of its former members. An avant garde experimentalist, he helped bridge the gap between free jazz and fusion.
Jamal was born Warren Robert Cheeseboro on July 23, 1946, in Jacksonville, Florida, but grew up in Philadelphia, where he started playing the vibraphone as a teenager in the ’60s. He studied at the Granoff School of Music and the Combs College of Music, and took private lessons with Bill Lewis, with whom he would later make an album of vibraphone-marimba duets.
He founded Sounds of Liberation in Philadelphia in 1970 with guitarist Monnette Sudler, alto saxophonist Byard Lancaster, Billy Mills on bass, Omar Hill and Rashid Salim on percussion, and Dwight James on drums. They released just one album, New Horizons, on their own Dogtown label in 1972. It was reissued on Porter Records in 2010, which led to renewed interest and the resurfacing of a 1973 recording made at Columbia University, released in 2019 on Dogtown/Brewerytown as Unreleased. His first solo album—as the Khan Jamal Creative Art Ensemble—was 1973’s Drum Dance to the Motherland. It was recorded live in a small coffee shop in Philadelphia. In 2021, Jazz Room reissued his 1984 “spiritual jazz” album Infinity.