Master percussionist and composer Kahil El’Zabar has enjoyed a spectacular resurgence of late, as heard on his last album with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble (one of the most important global jazz album of recent memory - read review above), and this is confirmed by his latest collaborative release.
El’Zabar brings an innate groove and spirituality to everything he puts his hands to, as he explains in the liner notes: “ ‘Spirit Groove’ intends to move you nakedly with a deep sense of dance on a Mind/Body/Sprit level…In the words of Bird, “Now’s the time!” to re-embrace Groove as a mission in reconnecting the Souls of all people into the Spirit of a new Awakening…’Sprit Groove’ is intended to be a social experience through music. Shake your chakras!”.
Kahil El’Zabar and the great saxophonist David Murray first recorded together in 1989 (as a duet on the album Golden Sea). Since then Murray has explored and embraced global Afrocentric rhythms, most notably on his collabs with Senegalese Doudou N’Diaye Rose (on the Fo Deuk Revue album) and his triplet of albums with the Gwoka Masters from Guadeloupe.
Throughout the set, El’Zabar’s impressive array of Afro rhythms and spiritual grooves are highlighted by Murray’s soulful performances on both tenor and bass clarinet. They are joined on the album by acoustic bassist Emma Dayhuff and Justin Dillard on synth, organ and piano, both representing the younger generation in style.
In true spirit of the album’s title, the opener ‘In My House’ is a relentless 20 minute trance odyssey on a spirited groove, as El’Zabar invites us to a (his!) house where you can pray, reach to the soul, sing and dance…day and night. The kind of house you never want to leave.
‘Song Of Myself’ is, in the words of El’Zabar, “all about the introspection of dancing in your mind”, a groovy, hypnotic late night affair, complete with a looping bass line and psychedelic organ.
The whole set goes from highlight to highlight, from ‘In The Spirit’ (a classic of El’Zabar’s repertoire which he first performed in 1979) to ‘One World Family’ (co-written by Murray and Zabar in the mid 80s), via the majestic kalimba patterns and freedom dance of ‘Katon’ and the Coltrane tribute ‘Trane in Mind’.
This is meditative spiritual jazz that’s rooted in the traditions of the genre but with a really fresh approach. The whole album makes for an immersive, truly mesmerising listen from start to finish, as we explore the realms and possibilities of spiritual jazz as an art form.
In the words of El’Zabar, “It is time to wake up and reconnect the Body, Mind and Soul! “