aKLaff in the Loft

On the Drums…
2 min readJan 29, 2021


Guitarist/composer Michael Gregory Jackson’s Frequency Equilibrium Koan neatly documents New York’s legendary loft scene with a 1977 concert featuring jazz great Pheeroan aKLaff

On February 5, Golden Records will release Frequency Equilibrium Koan, a live date featuring a quartet of iconic avant-jazz musicians: leader, composer, and guitarst Michael Gregory Jackson, saxophonist Julius Hemphill, cellist Abdul Wadud, and drummer Pheeroan aKLaff. The recording is a prime example of the wildly experimental and influential scene happening in the Lower East Side of New York City in the mid to late ’70s. The long-form compositions on the album, typical of the writing and performing Jackson was doing at that time, were recorded live at singer Joe Lee Wilson’s venue, the Ladies’ Fort, on the guitarist’s Sony field recording cassette machine.

Pheeroan aKLaff is a native of Detroit, where he played with blues icon John Lee Hooker and keyboardist Travis Biggs while still in high school. In 1975 he moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where he formed an R&B band called Deja Vu with tenorist Dwight Andrews, keyboardist Nat Adderley Jr., singer Phillipa Overstreet, and vibist Jay Hoggard, and where he met trumpet player Leo Smith, who introduced him to the New York experimental jazz scene. The drummer went on to work with Oliver Lake, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Davis, George Lewis, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Sonny Sharrock, among many other leaders of note. He’s also released a number of albums as a leader, including Fits Like a Glove, Sonogram, and Global Mantras, as well as the solo-drums releases House of Spirit Mirth and Drum Set Variations. You can hear the wide breadth of aKLaff’s sound across these disparate recordings, and indeed throughout Frequency Equilibrium Koan, from the halting, precise punctuations on the opening title track, to the rolling, tom-happy groove on “Heart & Center,” to his warm and searching bronze work on “A Meditation.”

“I met Pheeroan aKLaff at the La Mama Theatre in Alphabet City,” says Michael Gregory Jackson in the press release announcing the release of Frequency Equilibrium Koan. “[He] was always there, a constant presence at our shows. We struck up a conversation and became instant friends. I was playing a lot with the great master saxophonist and composer Oliver Lake. Once Oliver and I heard Pheeroan play, it was clear, we knew, aKLaff would be the perfect drummer for our music, and we were right. [He] had an enigmatic Aquarian-ness about him, his drumming is intuitive, impassioned, and visionary. I greatly admire his sense of humor, strength, and gracious humility. I enjoyed every conversation I ever had with him.

“I enlisted Pheeroan to play in many of my ensembles over the years,” Jackson added, “and we’ve maintained our friendship. Pheeroan aKLAff is a rebel, he strongly personifies the past, present, and future of distinguished drummer/composer/musicians.”