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Bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma reflects on his journey down a 'Dirt Road' in N. Carolina

Jamaaladeen Tacuma in front of the Whiteville Bus Station
Rahima Tacuma
Courtesy of Artist
Jamaaladeen Tacuma in front of the Whiteville Bus Station

A little over 150 miles east of Charlotte, N.C. is the city of Whiteville. With a population around 5,000, it is a relatively quiet, picturesque southern farm town with winding dirt roads. Those dirt roads left a strong impression on bassist, composer and fashion icon Jamaaladeen Tacuma, who spent the summers of his youth in Whiteville — his family's home town.

Tacuma, who was raised and remains in Philadelphia, has built his career on the principles of soulful groove, colorful presentation and a sense of artistic freedom — the latter something he learned on the road with saxophonist Ornette Coleman's harmolodic group Prime Time.

"That was a revelation," says Tacuma about his time with Coleman, "in terms of the instrument being freed to just completely move outside of ... confinement." That principle has made Tacuma an instantly recognizable figure on the scene, musically and sartorially.

This episode, we'll join Jamaaladeen on a journey of self-discovery and reflection during a three-week residency in Whiteville, which he called The Dirt Road Xperience. For it, Tacuma set up shop in a storefront he turned into a gallery space filled with inspirational art, fashion and music. We'll hear tape from Tacuma speaking with his family, rediscovering Whiteville and of course some incredible live music from a group of local musicians he assembled in Whiteville and a new band of young musicians he put together in Charlotte who helped Jamaaldeen see it all come full circle.

"I got really emotional." Jamaaladeen reflected on the beauty of that intergenerational dialogue. "That's almost like what Ornette did with me. He put me in that setting and I became something out of that. So it's the same thing that I wanna do with other, younger musicians."


Dirt Road XPerience Band, The Chef & The Frog

Sax Norton, alto saxophone; Rodney Smith, guitar; George Freeman, keyboards; Jamaaladeen Tacuma, bass; Richard Branford, drums

Jamaaladeen Tacuma's Spectacle, Charlotte Goodyear Arts

Braxton Bateman, trumpet, talk box; Butler Knowles, bass; Jamaaladeen Tacuma, bass; Malcolm Charles, drums, synthesizers

Set List:

  • Relax (Jamaaladeen Tacuma)
  • Tacuma Song (Ornette Coleman)
  • Maceo, My Man (Tacuma)
  • The Gift (Tacuma, Braxton Bateman, Malcolm Charles, Butler Knowles)
  • Free As Breezy (Tacuma, Bateman, Charles, Knowles)
  • Groovelocity (Tacuma, Bateman, Charles, Knowles)
  • Credits:

    Writers and Producers: Trevor Smith and Alex Ariff; Consulting Editor, Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Additional support: Mitra Arthur and Donelle Wedderburn; Vice President of Visuals and Strategy at NPR Music: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.

    Live music recording, mixing and mastering: Gregg Mann. Assistant Sound Engineer (Whiteville, NC): Nesby Berkley; Assistant Sound Engineer (Charlotte, NC): Denise Ward; Field recording: Gregg Mann, Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Rahima Tacuma.

    Special thanks to Rahima Tacuma, Matt Merewitz.

    Jamaaladeen Tacuma's residency, The Dirt Road XPerience, was made possible with the support of Jazz Road, a national initiative of South Arts, which is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

    Copyright 2022 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    Trevor Smith
    Trevor joined the WBGO Development Department in April of 2017 and currently handles grant writing and institutional giving initiatives as the Coordinator of Corporate and Foundation Relations.Since graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2011, Trevor has worked extensively in the jazz community in fundraising, events, and artist management capacities.
    Alex Ariff
    News from Alabama Public Radio is a public service in association with the University of Alabama. We depend on your help to keep our programming on the air and online. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.