Jalal Mansur Nuriddin & The Jazz Warriors International

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Jalal Mansur Nuriddin & the Jazz Warriors international (Live at the Jazz Cafe, London)
By Michael J Edwards

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

“Thank you! Thank you! The Thank you! Yeah, I came with the peace. You know it’s good to be back in Angleterre; Merry Olde England. I’ll give you a little brief rap about the Hustlers Convention; we’re making a film here tonight; it’s part of a documentary. It’s called the hustling of the Hustlers Convention. The hustlers involved are here by the way. They will be incognito; nevertheless they are identifiable, but not reliable, but they are liable.”

This was how Jalal Mansur Nuriddin greeted the Jazz Cafe massive, who had gathered to hear the Grandfather of Rap recite poetry from his now infamous Hustlers Convention spoken word/ soundtrack masterpiece. It was the U.K.’s very own spoken word poet of distinction, Mr Lemn Sissay who got proceedings underway by first bringing to our attention the presence of another music legend in our midst, one Mr George ‘Funkinstein’ Clinton. In one swift adjoining sentence our eloquent host welcomed the grandfather of Rap a.k.a. Lightnin’ Rod to this stage to take up his rightful position as MC at the Hustlers Convention.

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Lemn Sissay – Host of Hustlers Convention
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Dressed in a black woolly hat, mauve patterned woollen jumper and black leather trousers, the lyrical Maestro then went on to explain that he had not performed ‘Hustlers Convention’ in over forty years – In fact Jalal confessed that the last time he actually recited Hustlers Convention was before he had even made the record! Clarifying that in the interim years, the record had only been available as either a cut-out, bootleg or via various other “dubious” licensees which he WAS aware of, Mr Nuriddin informed us that part one of his set will contain tracks written post ‘Hustlers Convention’, or as he put it, “…So we’re gonna bust out some rhymes from my evolution since that time, and then we’re gonna take a blast from the past, and all y’all are invited to the Convention, because y’all are here.” After another brief soliloquy paraphrasing his reason for writing ‘Hustlers Convention’ i.e. as a warning of what NOT to do and the pitfalls to be avoided in spiralling into a gangster lifestyle, Jalal laid on us the first of his profound lessons for the evening via the insightful “Word To the Wise.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Jalal’s diction, intonation, clarity of speech and voice control was as extremely impressive for a man in his early seventies. A very good thing to, because Jalal’s musical poems are saturated with impactful, thought-provoking lyrics; some more overt than others. The potency of his lyrics were even more evident on the following track, “Mankind,” lifted from the “Fruits of Rap” album, one of the solo projects he recorded during his so called, “Evolution Years.”

The depth and profundity of the words he sprouted over the duration of this ten minute track would only register on the consciousnesses of the majority of those gathered as they journeyed home. A big shout out to the Jazz Warriors international headed up by Musical Director, Orphy Robinson whose musical cohorts maintained a professionally tight and rhythmical accompaniment throughout. The piercing trombone stabs of one Mr Dennis Rollins perfectly punctuated Jalal’s potent rhymes where necessary.

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Dennis Rollins (trombone)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

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Ebo Shakoor (Flute & Percussion)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

“Now I’d like to do a piece, which actually deals with the concept of time”, was how Jalal introduced the final track of part one of his long overdue live set. He continued, “It’s a track which deals with the past, the present and the future; “It’s called Conflicts of Time.” Jalal then proceeded to engage us in an imaginary but pertinent conversation between the past, present and future, ably assisted on vocals by Cleveland Watkiss with percussionist Ebo Shakoor’s free flowing flute flurries weaving in between them both.

After a brief intermission, Jalal and the jazz Warriors international collective returned to the stage to present and officially revisit ‘Hustlers Convention’ proper in the live arena since it’s recording over forty years ago. Our protagonist made clear what was on his mind and heart as soon as he addressed the Mic. “Welcome to part two, welcome to the Convention. Be careful there’re some hustlers in here who will try and take you off to sign a recording contract and pay you no royalties; bootleg the record, sell it for forty years, make a fortune and don’t want to pay you a damn dime! Then you have to chase them down like a pack of wolves and when you catch up with them they’ve got all kinds of excuses… But that don’t wash. So y’all ready to go to the Hustlers Convention?”

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The whooping and hollering from those gathered at the Convention was all the prompting Jalal a.k.a. Lightning Rod required to begin reeling off the iconic intro lyrics to “Sport” the opening skit to his groundbreaking 1973 album, as the Jazz Warriors international faithfully laid down their own Funk’Soul’n’Rap reinterpretation of the music score played originally by Kool of the Gang, Bernard Purdie, Billy Preston, Cornell Dupree and a host of other first-class musicians. “It was a full moon in the middle of June, in the summer of ’69. I was young and cool and shot a bad game of pool, and hustled all the chumps I could find… Well, now they called me Sport because I pushed the ball short and I loved all the women to death. I partied hard and packed a mean Rod and could knock you out with the right or the left… And if I caught a dude cheating, I would give him a beating, and I might even blow him away!”

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Orphy Robinson (MD and marimba)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

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Cleveland Watkiss (vocals)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

It was evident that there were some hard-core ‘Hustlers Convention’ disciples in the house as they sang along to every word verbatim, creating wholesome reverberations around this world famous music venue. Jalal swayed from side to side to the rhythm as he effortlessly let flow his rhymes segueing seamlessly through his cautionary tale of gangster lifestyle from the opening salvos of “Sport” and “Spoon” through to “The Café Black Rose,” and “Brother Hominy Grit.” Musical Director, Orphy Robinson remained focused and alert throughout each elongated skit, orchestrating the ensemble, whilst staying as true as possible to Lightnin’ Rod’s classic masterpiece. His fellow seasoned Jazz Warrior; Cleveland Watkiss maintained a consistent melodic vocal tempo to compliment Lightning Rod’s output.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The drinks were flowing freely at the Hustlers Convention as Lightning Rod continued to reel off stanza after stanza and rhyming couplet after rhyming couplet from the top of his dome, which was a feat in itself, considering our protagonist had not recited this historic work for over four decades! Just like the record, as soon as the strains of the previous track, “Brother Hominy Grit” had ebbed away, MD, Orphy Robinson gave the cue for the well drilled Jazz Warriors International to transition into what would transpire to be the final instalment of the evening.

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Rod Young (drums)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

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Hawi Gondwe (guitar)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The mellow, ethereal, hypnotic flow of “Coppin’ Some Fronts For The Set,” exploded abruptly into the stone cold funk’d out groove of “Hamhock’s Hall was big.” The groove was so funk’d out that Jalal’s hips were now hyper-gyrating as if he was twirling a hula-hoop around them, whilst at the same time he along with Cleveland Watkiss continued to impress with their vocal stamina and pyrotechnics. As Lightning Rod proceeded to reveal in further detail the illegal gambling going on’s taking place inside Hamhock’s Hall, MD and vibesman extroadinaire Orphy Robinson took time out to lay-down an impressive high energy marimba solo of his own.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

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Ebo Shakoor (percussion)
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Shortly after as the music died down on “Hamhock’s Hall Was Big,” the master wordsmith offered up his final set of rhyming couplets, having memorised and performed half of the tracks from his stellar Rap album, before announcing, “Stay tuned for part two, another time another place,” to which a voice from the upper balcony boldly retorted, “You’re pretty fucking good man!” The cheers, whistles and whooping which followed signified that all those convened agreed with the aforementioned statement. Jalal continued, “Thank you. I’ve had so much press, I almost got depressed. They didn’t give me a chance to reverse my verse!” (In fact Jalal was rehearsing his verse until 3am the morning of the Convention!) “However, some of it is better than none at all, and next time I’ll give it to y’all – Is that cool with y’all?” Once again the crowd trumpeted their approval. “Alright, just so you know you’ve got something to look forward to.” Then Jalal went on to reveal his plans for his long awaited follow-up material, “Also, I’ve written a CD, it’s called ‘The Hustlers Detention.’ It’s two hours and five minutes long and will explain the ‘Hustlers Convention.’ And the bandits won’t get their damn hands on it! Do you hear that, you know who? Charly Records! On that note I’m going to let you folk be, because that was my last quote, and I’m out of here, you here!”

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Grandfather of Rap then acknowledged the esteemed group of musicians around him again before taking his leave, stage right to a cacophony of noise from a most appreciative audience, many of whom were fully aware they had just witnessed history in the making – never to be repeated. Cleveland Watkiss then turned compere to name-check the truly inspired and inspirational Jazz Warriors International band members whilst Mr Robinson was still orchestrating them in a final mega-pinchy retro Funk/Rap outro tune. It was definitely a night to remember. Look out for film producer/ director Mike Todd’s comprehensive and revealing documentary/film/story on the life of Jalal. As famous Roman emperor, Julius Caesar once proclaimed, “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered). Well Jalal Mansur Nuriddin aka Lightnin’ Rod definitely came, saw and conquered all those within the confines of London’s Jazz Cafe’s or Hamhock Hall’s walls (for one night only) – In modern day Rap colloquialism, he shut it down!

The Jazz Warriors International are: Orphy Robinson (MD & Marimba), Cleveland Watkiss (Voice), Dennis Rollins (Trombone), Rod Young (Drums), Hawi Gondwe (Guitar), Tiago Coimbra (Bass), Jonathan Idiagbonya (Keys) and Ebo Shakoor (Percussion).

Michael J Edwards

Big thanks to Malik Al Nasir from Malik and The O.G’s for granting UK Vibe access to review this seminal event.

Essential Website:
http://www.grandfatherofrap.com

Essential Discography:
http://www.grandfatherofrap.com/discography

Essential Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/HustlersConventionFilm

Essential un-released albums:
Hustlers Detention
Hustlers Ascension

Essential Jalal Biography: Coming soon…

travelling the spaceways since 1993