Kahil El'Zabar & David Murray: We Is: Live at the Bop Shop (2004)
In the last few years we have become accustomed to hearing saxophonist David Murray playing with an agenda, especially since he began recording for the Canadian Justin Time label in 1996. With Justin Time Murray has released conceptual albums, either as a leader or as a member of the World Saxophone Quartet, that include tributes to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Jimi Hendrix, or pursued side projects with music from Senegal and Guadeloupe. I miss the hard-blowing Murray who plays just for fun.
Chicagoan percussionist and drummer Kahil El'Zabar, founding member of of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble and the leader of the Ritual Trio, has recorded before with Murray on Murray's A Sanctuary Within (Black Saint, 1991), as well as his own One World Family (CIMP, 2000) and Love Outside of Dreams (Delmark, 2002). He supplies Murray the perfect opportunity to relax and deliver some of his most emotional and soulful chops. This long-delayed release was recorded live at the Bop Shop in Rochester, New York five years ago.
This session begins with the bluesy "Groove Allure," where El'Zabar pushes Murray with his hand drums and chanting and hollering. It get more intense on the second track, "We Is," where El'Zabar occupies the drum set and drives Murray into a feverish solo with his bass drum and cymbals, bringing to mind a former Murray collaborator, drummer Milford Graves (The Real Deal, DIW, 1992). The eighteen-minute "Blues Affirmation" begins with ballad-like sax playing and El'Zabar investigating the African sanza, subsequently evolving into a call-and-response duet, before culminating with another passionate solo from Murray. Their signature tune, "One World Family," which was covered on earlier Delmark and CIMP sessions, begins with Murray soloing funkily on his bass clarinet for almost four minutes before El'Zabar joins him and chants the warm statement of unity. The encore, "Sweet Meat," brings El'Zabar back behind the drum kit for another intense duet.
Not as titanic as Murray's encounter with Graves, but still a great musical showcase of two exceptional musicians.
Track Listing: Groove Allure; We Is; Blues Affirmation; One World Family; Sweet Meat
Personnel: Kahil El'Zabar- drums, percussion; David Murray- tenor saxophone, bass clarinet