For more than thirty years, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble has carried the American tradition of percussive jazz onward from a distinctly African-Chicago-American perspective. This live session, recorded in percussionist Kahil El'Zabar's loft, continues the long line of stellar recordings, but with a new and seemingly ever changing lineup.
The EHE has included, among others, saxophonists Edward Wilkerson, Jr., Light Henry Huff and Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, trombonist Joseph Bowie and percussionist Harold Atu Murray. Besides El'Zabar's Ritual Trio, it is one of the longest continuously working groups in jazz. The current lineup includes longstanding member Ernest Dawkins on alto saxophone, plus recent additions trumpeter Corey Wilkes and guitarist Fareed Haque.
The session opens with the earth drum of El'Zabar setting the pulse for "Major To Minor, a joyous fourteen-minute union of two horns, backed by Haque's rhythm accompaniment. Wilkes, a fast rising star and member of the new Art Ensemble of Chicago, works a conventional solo in a unconventional manner with some slick electronic effects. As with AEC, his fresh take (and young years) are a signal that the music will be carried on by a younger generation.
The swinging "MT, for the late trumpeter Malachi Thompson, shares the "free-bop attitude with the spice of El'Zabar's kalimba thumb piano. He switches to a regular drum kit on the title track as the horns are allowed to move farther out, with what is always a trademark of an EHE sound, that ever present rhythm. While El'Zabar can bring the thunder, his sense of time (or is it place?) is grounded. Wilkes puts two horns to his lips and the stoic Dawkins plays within a trance-induced solo of speed.
The thoughtful "There Is A Place slows things down. The kalimba, paired with Haque's acoustic guitar, sets up Wilkes' slow drawn-out trumpet effects, before Haque twists some effects out of his guitar as he alters it with objects. Not to worry, the rhythm remains, and El'Zabar repeats the question, "Can you find a place where there's peace and happiness?
The disc ends with South American forms of "Black As Vera Cruz and the multiple percussive forms that all the members take up here. After over an hour of music your ears are demanding more.