179

Kahil El'Zabar and Billy Bang: Spirits Entering

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Kahil El'Zabar and Billy Bang: Spirits Entering As a ritual experience, music can be amazingly moving. That's a deep concept that American jazz players long ago absorbed from the traditions of West Africa. (Haiti and Cuba lie at the epicenter of this movement within the Western Hemisphere; but that's an entirely different tangent.) Free jazz veterans Kahil El'Zabar and Billy Bang improvise together on the drums and violin, respectively, on Spirits Entering. This recording would poorly be described as a "conversation"... having played together off and on for 25 years, these two musicians have come to develop an intuitive sense for each other's ideas and feelings. They play as one to make possible a ritual music with deep musical and extra-musical consequences. It's ironic that such a vital music be captured on aluminum. No fool would presume that ceremonial music deserves to cloak its visual, corporeal, and incantational elements.

Just as the physical pulse of El'Zabar's drumming (as on "Old Time Religion") immediately strikes one with an opportunity to dance, Bang's elastic violin melodies offer an opportunity for song. (As also happens on "Old Time Religion," oddly enough.)

El'Zabar is at his best on Spirits Entering (which says a lot). His instrumental combination mostly includes hand-held percussion, traditional drums from the African diaspora, and the usual miscellanea. At moments he ventures squarely into the melodic realm (especially when he plays the thumb piano), but for the most part he nurtures quiet energy on the drums. El'Zabar plays with wisdom: not aiming for a new level of virtuosity, but focusing on the act of co-creation. He knows when to hold back, when to apply the pepper, and when to break free. Indeed, it's hard to separate his voice from Bang's.

Billy Bang has taken the (hardly idiomatic) jazz violin and defined a deeply personal sound, relying on bowed melodies and a pinch of altered techniques here and there where appropriate. His voice on Spirits Entering is restrained, but in a deliberate and focused manner. The melody fairly leaps out at you on the opener, "Spirits Entering" or the similarly pressing "Golden Sea." No fancy show here. But that would, of course, be completely out of place in this ritual setting.

As John Miller Chernoff reflected in his book African Rhythm, African Sensibility, the secret of the ritual in West African drumming is to make the music cool. That's as accurate a description as you're likely going to come across for Spirits Entering. But don't worry, it's a heavy kind of cool.

Visit Delmark on the web.


Track Listing: Spirits Entering; 2 Was Now; Sweet Irene; Love Outside of Dreams; The Dream Merchant; Song of Myself; The Ituri Fantasy; Old Time Religion; Golden Sea.

Personnel: Billy Bang: violin; Kahil El'Zabar: drums, thumb piano, birimbau, percussion.

| Record Label: Delmark Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Antenna" CD/LP/Track Review Antenna
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 22, 2016
Read "Zenith" CD/LP/Track Review Zenith
by Budd Kopman
Published: March 1, 2016
Read "Once & Future" CD/LP/Track Review Once & Future
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 10, 2016
Read "All These Hands" CD/LP/Track Review All These Hands
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 20, 2016
Read "A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke" CD/LP/Track Review A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 9, 2016
Read "The Way You Say It" CD/LP/Track Review The Way You Say It
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 7, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!