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Kahil El’Zabar and Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

  • Music, Jazz

Time Out says

The master percussionist Kahil El’Zabar may be one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets. His driving compositions—simple themes that gain complexity through repetition and improvisation—have been recorded with such saxophone stars as David Murray, Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp; his deft drumming has earned him gigs with Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, to name a couple. But his best efforts are often his homegrown ensembles. El’Zabar celebrates the 45th anniversary of one of these groups, Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, with a tour that includes an appearance at an appropriately under-the-radar spot: the 75 Club at the Bogardus Mansion, a speakeasy-like Tribeca lounge that opened in October. While the trio undergoes various lineups, it’s always built around an unusual configuration of drums and two horns. El’Zabar’s vocal chants set trance-inducing patterns for the resonant rhythms of his large African hand drums and exploratory brass improvisations. The current version features Corey Wilkes on trumpet and Alex Harding on baritone sax, plus the leader’s voice, drums—and whatever other instruments he can shake, rattle or strap onto his ankles.

Written by
Kurt Gottschalk


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