Jamael Dean

Another example of how the new generation of jazz cats are reclaiming what Greg Tate called “the divine, the magical, the supernatural, the ancestral – spiritual genius”. They are ascending to heights that once upon a time only John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra could. And by including elements of soul and hip hop they are even able to make it a more accessible experience. Jamael Dean, a prodigy on the keys, is one of those youngsters.

On his debut album Black Space Tapes, Dean threw you all over the map of his hometown LA, with small bursts of rap, r&b and even ambient in what feels like a 37-minute jazz sprint. It inspires, energizes, even exhausts, to at the end leave you breathless yet restless. A wonderful introduction to the new OG on the block.

It’s no wonder, as the spirits got hold of him at a young age. His grandfather is Donald Dean, who played drums for Les McCann, Jimmy Smith and Horace Tapscott. Seeing his pop-pop play live, Dean remembers having the epiphany of knowing what he wanted to do. “Watching him interact with his buddies—that was something I could see for myself.”

As a 21-year old he already accomplished what he wanted, playing on Kamasi Washington’s Heaven And Earth and with fellow Angelenos Thundercat, Carlos Niño and the maestro Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. The influence of another LA deity, Flying Lotus, is never far away.

As said, the cosmic jazz from the end of the sixties and during the seventies is never far away. Labels like Strata-East, Black Jazz and Tribe come to mind. Dean isn’t afraid to include West African spirituality, Black culture and excellence into composition and narrative. There are references to the Yoruba people, but also afrocentric writers like Amiri Baraka. Jamael Dean’s music is intellectual and multifaceted. Jamael Dean is a spiritual genius.

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