James Kamal has been a professional musician for over twenty-five years. Born in the South Bronx of New York City, his informal music education included the influences of his Puerto Rican heritage and the pop culture of his inner-city upbringing. As an early musical student, he sat under the teaching of master drummers Charles Persip, Kenwood Dennard, and Freddie Waites, and studied at the reputable Jazzmobile School. Kamal's musical influences also stem from his travels throughout the world and exposure to a wide range of people. James Kamal believes that one of his strongest qualities is his ability to understand and address differences in culture, class, and living environments.
James Kamal's music effectively combines the traditions of jazz, pop, gospel, and other contemporary genre with the exploratory drive of the avant-garde into a uniquely dynamic and personal style. As a five-year member of Ornette Coleman's group Prime Time, Kamal became proficient in Coleman's Harmelodic Concept, a form which has had a major impact on contemporary improvisational music. James Kamal has also been the heart of rhythm sections for such renowned and diverse musicians as Roberta Flack, The Delphonics, Cab Calloway, Yusef Lateef, Shirley Cesar, Leroy Jenkins, Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, Jack McDuff, Lonnie Smith, Africa Bembatta and the Soul Sonic Force, Frank West, and Al King, among others.
Kamal's unique rhythmic style can be heard on live recordings, such as Live at Caravan of Dreams (Ornette Coleman), Metamorphosis (Yusef Lateef), and Tenors of Yusef Lateef and Ricky Ford (Yusef Lateef and Ricky Ford), and on a VHS recording of Made in America (Ornette Coleman) that won the Best Soundtrack Award at the 14th International Moscow Film Festival.
Kamal has performed in major festivals and concert venues throughout the United States, Canada, Iceland, Europe, the Middle East, and Japan. Some of the popular venues where Kamal has been featured include the Regattabar Jazz Club (Cambridge, MA), the Berklee Performance Center (Boston, MA), the Beacon Theatre (New York, NY), and Sweet Basil's (New York, NY). Kamal has also performed at the Newport Jazz Festival (Newport, RI), the Cool Jazz Festival, the Nice Jazz Festival (Nice, France), Cleveland Symphony Hall (Cleveland, OH), and the renowned Sky Festival (Japan). Additionally, he has performed in Broadway musical productions, including Mama, I Wanna Sing and Your Arm's Too Short to Box with God.
Kamal was a 1992 recipient of a Jazz Performance Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Music reviewer Carlo Wolff of The Plain Dealer described Kamal as...
"a powerful percussionist... galvanizing and supple..."
Over the past twelve years, James Kamal has taught privately and worked with various human service agencies, such as the Old Colony YMCA, in Brockton, MA, and Goddard-Riverside Center, in New York, NY. Kamal's community work entails conducting drum workshops for special needs populations such as prison inmates, senior citizens, participants of drug rehabilitation programs, and inhabitants of facilities for the emotionally impaired.