African-American music (and African music for that matter) has always been about groove, movement, and that internal mechanism in your chest (perhaps your heart) that undulates and sways to the beat. In jazz, the rhythm catches you. If you explore further, melody and improvisation demands your surrender to this religion.
For more than 25 years, percussionist Kahil El’Zabar has worked at the crossroads of jazz and African music providing the groove for AACM creations and his own Ritual and Ethnic Heritage Ensemble bands.
This session brings together El’Zabar and fellow AACM bassist Fred Hopkins along with saxophonist David Murray. Hopkins, who passed away in January of 1999, was a frequent collaborator of Henry Threadgill, Hamiet Bluiett, and David Murray.
Murray and El’Zabar’s collaborations have been many, from outstanding duos, One World Family (CIMP 2000) and Golden Sea (Sound Aspects 1989) to Murray’s larger ensemble creations The Tip and Jug-A-Lug (DIW 1994). Their musical kinship is amixture of Coltrane, Ayler, and Ellington.
This recording date, the final session for Fred Hopkins, is an infectious pulse-fest throughout. El’Zabar’s playing has a way of absorbing the listener into his human touch, be it with hand drumming, thumb piano, or his snare. The band opens with the straightforward bop-ish title track, then progresses to the appealing hand drumming and sung “Song For A New South Africa,” perhaps a follow up to Noah Howard’s “Song For A South Africa.” El’Zabar’s knack for maximizing the minimal is his success. Playing the traditional drum set behind Murray’s bass clarinet with Hopkins pulsing energy can make for exciting music.
Whether Murray conjures Eric Dolphy from his bass clarinet or Coltrane on the duo “Meditation For The Celestial Warriors,” his playing finds a kindred spirit in El’Zabar, and one (like Rashied Ali to Coltrane) that directs and influences each other’s music. El’Zabar’s meditation via the African thumb piano centers Murray’s outward designs and frames his harmonic expansions.
The band closes with the millennial anthem “One World Family,” a contagious composition that, if this were another time, would be a fantastic follow up to Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has A Master Plan.” If we jazz lovers cannot actually have pop hits, we can create our own personal theme songs
This is a four-star recording.