Kahil El'Zabar is hard to put into a box. He's a disciple of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM), the Chicago free jazz movement, to which also the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Fred Anderson belong, yet he's carved out his own space. Kahil El'Zabar is a great drummer and percussionist; rhythm is extremely important in his compositions and they are inspired by African music. The core theme of his pieces are thematically repetitive and often hypnotic. The simplicity - without being simple - of the themes give the soloists the opportunity to take up all the space. El'Zabars Ritual Trio has at least the record of the longest piece in my collection : 1 hour and 19 minutes and 57 seconds, short for 80 minutes (on "Ritual Trio with Pharoah Sanders Live")! The power of this music is to be found in the energy, the improvasitional inventiveness, the joy of the musical interplay, even the spirituality of it all.
Big M is dedicated to Malachi Favors Maghostut, the bass player of the Ritual Trio, who died in 2004. Kahil started playing the drums at the age of 14 after having seen a performance of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, impressed by Favors' bass work. Ari Brown on sax and piano completes the trio. Ari Brown himself replaces the late Lester Bowie. Malachi Favors is replaced by Yosef Ben Israel, and for this CD Billy Bang also joins in on violin. This CD is not really his best performance, yet really worth listening to. The Ritual Trio recorded a live album two days before this CD was recorded, called "Live At The River East Art Center". I find the latter a little more energetic, more intense, but it is harder to find. Big M offers over one hour of great music : the endless creativity of El'Zabar on percussion, teh warm, intense and soaring sax of Ari Brown and the powerful yet sensitive bass of Yosef Ben Israel. Enjoy!