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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Kahil El'Zabar - Spirit Groove (Spiritmuse Records, 2020) ****

By Stef Gijssels

No need to introduce Kahil El'Zabar's percussive and musical power to you, nor to introduce tenor saxophonist David Murray either.  El'Zabar and Murray have collaborated on previous albums, "Golden Sea" (1989), "One World Family" (2000), "Love Outside Of Dreams" (2003), "We Is - Live At The Bop Shop" (2004), mostly for duo performances and once with Fred Hopkins on bass. This is the first time that they play in a quartet with a harmonic instrument. They are joined by Justin Dillard on keyboards and Emma Dayhuff on double bass.

Fans of the master percussionist will enjoy this fully and "Spirit Groove" is possibly the most aptly chosen title possible. There are no real surprises musically, because the band stays within the sonic language that El'Zabar has developed and been perfecting over the years, with trance-inducing never-ending repetitive rhythms and vocals sung like incantations. No surprise either with the strong and authentic emotional and spiritual feel of the music. There's no surprise either about the strong musicianship and the great interplay.

The real surprise is that after all these decades, the music has not lost anything of its infectious nature. This is not free jazz, but jazz that reaches back to many roots: blues, jazz, African music, but it is brought with a freedom of structure and freedom of harmonic development that makes anything possible. This is, as El'Zabar says himself, music that "intends to move you nakedly with a deep sense of dance on a Mind/Body/Spirit level".

The power of the music is its intimate connectedness with the audience, even for the parts that were not recorded live. This is music that wants the listener to join in, to dance along and sing along and play along.


Listen and download from Bandcamp. Also available as a double vinyl LP.