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Kahil El'Zabar: Urban Bushman

By Published: March 16, 2006
The River East show was released by Delmark as a CD and DVD and the latter is an important part of documenting El'Zabar's recent approach to producing his concerts. The setting features sculpture, projected video art and a painter creating a mural of the late comedian Richard Pryor. Young people are more accustomed to dance clubs and not "chemical relativity with live music, he said. "I didn't want people to sit and listen like at a concert. I told people to interact with the music, interact with the art, be social.

"We have to take responsibility and reinvent presenting, he added. "No one's really questioning presenting. It's just like 'Why are there less and less people?' [We need to] really address presenting and look at it in a tolerant, nonbiased way, all lend ourselves collectively and deal with radio and deal with webcasting and deal with TV. There's a need for opening, there's a need for connecting. That's how we'll connect people and that's what Trane was talking about, that's what Ayler was talking about. All these various transcendental gifts that go beyond the notes to get to this, I mean, c'mon!

But if at age 52 El'Zabar is focusing on building a younger audience, he's also suffering losses. Besides the deaths of bandmates Favors and Huff, he's seen the passing of some other great Chicago players. One of his strongest records, Sacred Love (Sound Aspects, 1985) featured the late Art Ensemble trumpeter Lester Bowie. In 2002, Delmark released Love Outside of Dreams, a trio with Murray and bassist Fred Hopkins, who died in 1999.

"We're just the last people of our generation, he said. "It's been so difficult to sustain and survive. Lester Bowie was one of my best friends. Malachi Favors was like a father. Fred Hopkins I grew up with. We're the 'in-between cats'. We were too old to be marketed as the young lions and we were too young to be marketed as the masters. Our time has come because we've survived.

Selected Discography

Kahil El'Zabar, Live at the River East Art Center (Delmark, 2004)

Kahil EL'Zabar, Love Outside of Dreams (Delmark, 2002)
Kahil El'Zabar/Bright Moments, Return of the Lost Tribe (Delmark, 1997)

Kahil El'Zabar/Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Dance with The Ancestors (Chameleon-Elektra, 1993)

Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio, Renaissance of the Resistance (Delmark, 1993)

Kahil El'Zabar/David Murray, Golden Sea (Sound Aspects, 1989)

Photo Credit
Marc Mohlrab

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Download jazz mp3 “It's Time” by Kahil El'Zabar