Friday, March 29, 2013

The Kahil El'Zabar Quartet - What It Is (Delmark, 2013)

Master drummer and percussionist Kahil El'Zabar leads a very strong modern jazz band through a set of jazz standards and originals indebted to the spirit of John Coltrane. On this album he is supported by Kevin Nabors on tenor saxophone, Justin Dillard on organ and piano and  Junius Paul on bass. The group is well integrated, and El'Zabar brings a great deal of experience to the music from his relationship with the AACM through his leadership of the the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. The El'Zabar original ""The Nature Of" leads off the album with thick bass and drums and Nabors' saxophone entering with an emotional cry. Swirling organ develops a deep meditative vibe, wrapping around Paul's bass to develop a potent groove. Everybody comes together with Nabors digging deep to a powerful conclusion. John Coltrane's "Impressions" gets a terrific reading developing a strong and muscular state. Powerful drums and saxophone lead the way with Nabors solo growing into a passionate storm, egged on by El'Zabar's splashy cymbals. After a deep piano and bass interlude, the saxophone and drums return, culminating in a thrilling cacophony of intense improvisation. The group slowly develops another John Coltrane composition, "Central Park West" with a great rhythm pattern for bass and drums, giving Paul a lot of space, and allowing Nabors to step off the throttle a bit and develop his improvisation in a more melodic fashion. The set ending original "Kari" delves deep into the Coltrane legacy with deep, dark piano accompaniment driving Nabors to bold or dramatic flights of improvisational fancy. This album will definitely appeal to fans that enjoy the music of the classic John Coltrane Quartet. They develop the tradition of the music of the past and bring it into the present with respect and dignity. What It Is! -

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