This 2019 release saw both the spectacular emergence of Spiritmuse, a bijou UK label dedicated to explore the world of spiritual jazz, spiritual groove and global music, and the re-emergence of master percussionist Kahil El’Zabar on the radar of global jazz lovers. The quality of both the music and the way it is presented to the listener (audiophile sound quality + top packaging and liner notes) put a “certified dopeness” stamp on both label and artist, which has been well confirmed since (read above and below). Spiritmuse releases aren’t the cheapest but given the attention to detail and quality on offer they are actually quite a bargain.
Be Known - Ancient/Future/Music is a near 90 minute (!) global jazz odyssey with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble at the control, a project Zabar first laid the foundations of in Chicago in 1973. Embracing the history of the Great Black music, the Ensemble has, in the words of Zabar, a “strong rhythmic foundation, innovative harmonics and counterpoint, well-balanced interplay and polyphony among the players for highly developed ensemble dynamics”. The Ensemble in its various incarnations has been touring for 48 years and counting! Those of us present for their stopover at the Church of Sound in 2019 will certainly remember that concert as one of the most uplifting collective live experience in recent memory.
Polyrhythms galore, an omnipresent groove, deep spirituality and a trance like quality are some of the obvious characteristics of the Ensemble, coupled with an in-depth grasp of music history. Indeed Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower' is presented in no less than two versions, and both their version of Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance and the relentless ‘Pharoah,’ a tribute to the saxophone legend and pioneer of spiritual jazz, are absolute jazz dance monsters.
Elsewhere he opener ‘N2 Deep’ and ‘Ntozake’ are two groovy, bluesy, and truly original ethno folk jazz numbers, while both ‘Black Is Back’ and ‘Blew It’ and some of the best club orientated jazz music to have come out in recent years - the dance-floor regulars at Beauty & the Beat will certainly agree.
Be Known - Ancient/Future/Music is a release as spectacular as they come, displaying so much depth and inspiration throughout the set, and undoubtedly the start of a new creative cycle from one of Chicago’s finest representatives. Believe the hype!