Monday, October 30, 2006

Kahil El'Zabar - Big M (Delmark, 2006)

Drummer Kahil El'Zabar teams with up with longtime cohort, violinist Billy Bang to pay tribute to the recently departed Art Ensemble of Chicago bassist Malachi Favors. Joining El'Zabar and Bang on this studio session are Yosef Ben Israel on bass and Ari Brown on tenor saxophone and piano. The music presented her is deeply spiritual and meditative. El'Zabar sets up a firm groove on most of the tunes, allowing Bang to improvise around it, bowing and plucking with deep tenacity and strength. The opener "Crumb Puck U Lent" is a fine example of this with the bass and drums locking into a tight pocket and Bang swirling around tem. The music has a deep sense of grace and a hard won beauty, with billowing saxophone solos from Brown occasionally picking up the pace from elegiac to ecstatic. "Maghoustut" which was Favors' stage name within the Art Ensemble shows the group at a faster pace with Brown's deeply toned and burly tenor saxophone taking the lead role. "Malachi" ends the proceedings with a gentle improvisation which features El'Zabar's soft vocalizations about the virtues of his friend and colleague.This is a deeply humane and genuine tip of the hat to a musician who may not have been famous, but left a lasting impact on those he met.

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