Percussionist Kahil El’Zabar has what you might call a well-stocked résumé. In addition to having played with musicians as diverse as Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Archie Shepp, Nina Simone and Paul Simon, he was, for a few years, president of the AACM, an organization promoting avant-garde jazz created in Chicago.
David Murray is a huge saxophonist, a tenor giant in the tradition of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Charles Lloyd, and Joe Lovano. His first recording with El’Zabar dates back to 1989. On this new one, which features new compositions and reinterpretations of old songs, these two titans of spiritual jazz are accompanied by two young players: Emma Dayhuff on double bass, and Justin Dillard on keyboards.
El’Zabar has remained true to the principles he has always cherished, and as he says himself, his motto would be more “shake your chakras” than “shake your booty”. His music, rooted in that of the griots of Africa, aims at the trance state. To achieve this, the percussionist pulls repetitious rhythms out of his bag and plays them for long stretches. Dayhuff and Dillard embroider around these hypnotic patterns, which become a flying carpet on which the listener’s mind takes flight to the sound of the leader’s deep voice and the colourful lines drawn by Murray’s saxophone. If some tracks, like “Katon”, border on monotony, the richness of his interventions always gives our senses something to rave about.