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Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio: Ooh Live!

John Barron By

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Ooh! is the artistic conception of veteran percussionist Kahil El'Zabar and an acronym for Operative Oracles for Humanity. To jumpstart his newly founded creative endeavor, the famed Chicago improviser has released Ooh! Live, a recording of his Ritual Trio from a 2000 concert at The Hot House in Chicago. El'Zabar's fellow oracles for this date were the late bassist Malachi Favors, legendary Chicago musician Ari Brown—perhaps best known as a saxophonist but featured here mainly on piano—and special guest Pharoah Sanders who lends his spirit for two of the disc's four tracks.

The trio of El'Zabar, Favors and Brown open the disc with a slow burn on "Autumn Leaves." The familiar melody and in-the-pocket groove set the tone for a set of high spirits and open-ended camaraderie.

The centerpiece of the disc, the free-form "In The Land of Ooh," garners an out-of-this-world performance from Sanders. The legendary reedman displays unrelenting intensity as he grinds, growls and wails through the twenty-five minute exploration.

Brown is front and center for a minor-key rendition of the traditional "This Little Light of Mine." The tune opens rubato with the commanding presence of Favors' arco lines before settling into a soulful medium-tempo groove. Brown's rhythmic spontaneity appears unlimited. He incorporates a conversational approach between both of his hands, creating layers of intensity. Favors and El'Zabar follow with matter-of-fact solo turns of their own, swinging and characteristically melodic.

Sanders returns for the disc closer, "Ka's Blues," a spirited chaser that gets the crowd shouting. El'Zabar's driving shuffle and Brown's R&B inspired voicings bring out some vibrant, at times greasy wailing from Sanders who even does some impromptu vocalizing. Brown gets up from the piano midway through to blow a soulful tenor solo before Sanders takes the set out with raw, guttural exuberance.

Track Listing: Autumn Leaves; In The Land of Ooh!; This Little Light of Mine; Ka's Blues.

Personnel: Kahil El'Zabar: drums, voice; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone, voice; Malachi Favors: bass; Ari Brown: piano, tenor saxophone (4).

Title: Ooh Live! | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Bright Moments/Katalyst

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