The Squid's Ear Magazine

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

Open Me, A Higher Consciousness Of Sound And Spirit

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Open Me, A Higher Consciousness Of Sound And Spirit (Spiritmuse Records)

Celebrating 50 years, percussionist Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble as the trio of El'Zabar, Corey Wilkes (trumpet) and Alex Harding (bar. sax), joined on tracks by James Sanders (violin) and Ishmael Ali (cello), reinterpret classics including "Great Black Music", "Ornette" and Aretha Franklin's "Compared to What", along with Miles' "All Blues" and McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance".
 

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product information:

Personnel:



Kahil El'Zabar-multi percussion, voice

Corey Wilkes-trumpet, percussion

Alex Harding-baritone saxophone

James Sanders-violin, viola

Ishmael Ali-cello


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UPC: 634457161481

Label: Spiritmuse Records
Catalog ID: CD-KEZ-011X
Squidco Product Code: 34515

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2024
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack - 3 panel
Recorded in Soundmine Studios, in Chicago, Illinois, in July, 2023, by Dennis Tousana .

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Celebrating 50 years of Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble's legacy and unwavering contribution to Great Black Music. Open Me, A Higher Consciousness of Sound and Spirit is a new Ethnic Heritage Ensemble sound, constantly shifting gears and tempos in a jazz-blues continuum, in perpetual spontaneity, combining their meaningful music history with an innovative approach to arrangements, performance and improvisation.

This is Ancient / Future Music for the Now and Beyond. Open Me is a joyous honoring of portent new directions of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble; it's a visionary journey into deep roots and future routes, channeling traditions old and new. It mixes El'Zabar's original compositions with timeless classics by Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, and Eugene McDaniels. Thus, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble continues affirming their indelible, half-century presence within the continuum of Great Black Music.

For Open Me, El'Zabar has chosen to push the sound of the EHE in a new direction by adding string instruments -the addition of strings opens new textural resonances and timbral dimensions in the Ensemble's sound, linking the work to the tradition of improvising violin and cello from Ray Nance to Billy Bang, Leroy Jenkins, and Abdul Wadud.

Open Me contains a mixture of originals, including some El'Zabar evergreens such as "Barundi," "Hang Tuff," "Ornette," and "Great Black Music" (often attributed to the Art Ensemble of Chicago but is, in fact, an El'Zabar composition). As a milestone anniversary celebration and a statement of future intent, Open Me effortlessly carries El'Zabar's healing vision of Higher Consciousness of Sound and Spirit."-Spiritmuse



"The first few bars of Open Me: A Higher Consciousness Of Sound And Spirit promise the listener is in for a treat. Corey Wilkes' muted trumpet plays Miles Davis' "All Blues" counterpointed by Alex Harding's rugged baritone saxophone and Kahil El'Zabar's ankle bells and kalimba. Here is Ethnic Heritage Ensemble in all its enchanting bare-bones singularity, barely a year since the release of the masterpiece Spirit Gatherer: A Tribute To Don Cherry (Spiritmuse).

Eighty minutes later, the promise of those opening moments has been kept. Like its predecessors, Open Me is grounded in contemporary realities while also touching on the cosmic beyond. It is spiritual jazz at its best, a journey into deep roots and future routes. When the album is released in early March 2024, Ethnic Heritage Ensemble (EHE) will, if all has gone to schedule, have just completed a month-long tour of the US and Canada-the group has toured across North America every February, during Black History Month, each year since its foundation in 1974.

El'Zabar formed EHE shortly after the conclusion of his decade-long tenure as chair of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Originally a quintet, it soon settled down into a trio: El'Zabar on drums and percussion plus two horns. "I had a dream where I saw a massive elephant's face head-on," he says. "The ears became the two tenor saxophonists back-to-back, and I then appeared between them, as though my earth drum was the elephant's trunk in the middle. It was a powerful vision... Some people literally laughed at our unorthodox instrumentation and approach. We were considered even stranger than most AACM bands at the time." Fifty years on, El'Zabar is having the last laugh.

Of the 2024 lineup, Corey Wilkes signed on in the early 2000s and Alex Harding in 2018, after having played with El'Zabar since the early 2000s in groups such as Joseph Bowie's Defunkt. As is his wont, El'Zabar has also added some guests, this time violinist and violist James Sanders and cellist Ishmael Ali. (Spiritual jazz in the US and UK is becoming increasingly fascinated with the cello. Abdul Wadud's totemic By Myself, released on Bishara in 1978, was in 2023 rereleased for the first time, on Gotta Groove Records.)

The material on Open Me includes "Great Black Music," often attributed to the AACM-affiliated Art Ensemble Of Chicago, but actually written by El'Zabar. There are two more El'Zabar evergreens in "Barundi" and "Hang Tuff," plus new originals. El'Zabar has always sought to include heritage material by other composers on EHE recordings and this time out, in addition to the contemplative "All Blues" are a deeply funky version of Eugene McDaniels's "Compared To What" (see the video below), which is the first single, and another of McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance." "-Chris May, All About Jazz


Get additional information at All About Jazz

Artist Biographies

"Musician Kahil El'Zabar was born in Chicago, on November 11, 1953. One of three children growing up in a South Side neighborhood, El'Zabar fell in love with the myriad sounds of the city, from doo-wop to jazz. After attending Catholic schools in Chicago, El'Zabar went to Kennedy-King College and later to Malcolm X and Lake Forest colleges. In 1973, he traveled to Africa to attend the University of Ghana and study African music firsthand.

El'Zabar began studying African music at an early age, taking a special interest in drumming. At the age of eighteen, he joined Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and by 1975 he was chairman of the organization. During the early 1970s, El'Zabar also formed his own musical group, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and later another group, Ritual Trio, with which he still performs. His musical abilities have allowed him to play with such greats at Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Nina Simone, and he has toured the world with both his own groups and others. El'Zabar is active in more than just music, however. He has appeared in several films, including Mo' Money, How U Like Me Now and The Last Set. From 1996 to 1999, El'Zabar organized Traffic at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, an inter-arts program featuring music and poetry.

El'Zabar has also served as an associate professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has published a book, Mis'taken Brilliance, and tailors clothing both for his band and for others. He is active on the boards of several organizations, including serving as the chairman of The Sun Drummer, an African American drum society, and on the board of directors of the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression. El'Zabar lives in Chicago. He has six children."

-The History Makers (https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/kahil-elzabar-39)
6/12/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Corey Wilkes has established himself as one of the best improvising trumpeters in the modern era. Having the skill and maturity to approach mainstream repertoire of jazz standards with his own unique sensibilities, he combines them with his deep appreciation of hip-hop. Corey continues to bring his brand of musicianship and talent to the forefront of the genre.

As a child, growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Wilkes was surrounded by the sounds of Blues, R&B, Soul, Funk and Jazz. He picked up the trumpet for the first time at the age of 10 participating in his school band programs. Corey's natural talent immediately began to flourish. His confidence and maturity were well beyond his years. As a student at Rich South High School in Richton Park, Illinois, his hard work and dedication secured him a spot in the Illinois All State Honors Jazz Combo; the first student in the school's history to do so.

Corey has also shared the stage with numerous Jazz Masters including but not limited to; Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, James Moody, Kurt Elling, Von Freeman, Greg Osby, Roscoe Mitchell, Marcus Belgrave, Clark Terry, Harry "Sweets" Edison and Mulgrew Miller. His soulful notes can be heard gracing a variety of contemporary projects including sets by DJ Logic, Osunlade and Josh Deep; tracks on Hidden Beach Recordings Presents: Unwrapped Vol. 4, Kahil El Zabar's Ascension Loft Series as well as Nona Hendryx, Soulive, Meshell Ndegocello and Ledisi."

-ArtistEcard (https://artistecard.com/CoreyWilkes)
6/12/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Alex Harding was born on April 5, 1967 in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of six, Alex knew what he wanted to do in his lifetime: to be a musician. He started to pursue his dream. Alex started on Drums & a few years later after hearing Grover Washington Jr on the radio playing Mr. Magic Alex switched to the tenor sax. Mr. Harding took band classes in elementary, middle school & high school, entering musical competitions and shows. He chose to attend Northwestern High School so he could study music under the direction of Mr. Ernest Rogers, a renowned musician & teacher. It was during high school that Alex decided to make the baritone sax and bass clarinet his main instruments.

Alex Harding studied music in his early years with Yusef Lateef, Beans Bows and Herbie Williams, and played with Wynton Marsalis and Donald Byrd while still in high school. Alex went on to win music scholarships to the University of Massachusetts and the Aspen School of Music. Alex's first European engagement in 1990 was in Porgy and Bess. A year later, he went to Mexico to the Arts and Music Festival with percussionist Francisco Mora.

After settling in New York in 1993, and a stint touring with Phatoms, a Haitian group, Alex joined Julius Hemphill's Saxophone Sextet. He also began performing with Muhal Richard Abrams, Craig Harris, Lester Bowie, Frank Lacey, Oliver Lake and David Murray's Big Band.

In 1996, Alex joined Hamiet Bluiett's Baritone Group and appeared with the Mingus Big Band, Jayne Cortez Firespitters and Lester Bowie's Hip-Hop Philharmonic. He also recorded with Greg Osby, Frank Lowe, David Lee Roth and Rodney Whittaker. The following year, Alex recorded At Doctor King's Table with the Julius Hemphill Sextet, a CD with Hamiet Bluiett's Baritone Group, and he made his debut with the Sun Ra Arkestra under Marshall Allen's leadership. In 1998, Alex was part of the Sun Ra All-Star Project that premiered at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival. More recently Alex has performed with the Roy Hargrove Big Band and with Aretha Franklin.

In the October '97 issue of Jazz Times, the review of Hamiet Bluiett's Baritone Band said that Alex Harding: "...attacked the music with steamroller momentum and uncommon ferocity...it was sheer fireworks."

Alex Harding has recorded several CD's for CIMP label and since 2008 he has performed on Broadway and toured with the (3) Tony Award winning show FELA !!!!

A powerful and innovative saxophonist, Alex Harding has a unique and contemporary baritone sound. The sincerity of his musical _expression and the dynamism of his performance reaches out and touch the human spirit and soul."

-Alex Harding Website (http://www.alexharding.net/html/about.php)
6/12/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"When Sanders returned home to Chicago in 1989 after earning a Masters Degree in performance from Yale University, he thought of himself as a classical musician. And while he quickly landed a seat in the Chicago Sinfonietta (which he still holds), a chance encounter with jazz violin legend Johnny Frigo changed his approach to music forever.

Over the next 30 years Sanders has honed his chops as both a leader and collaborator in various contexts: Latin jazz, free improvisation, Gypsy swing, straight-ahead, blues, third stream and more, all the while holding down that orchestra chair. He has performed around the world, including major jazz festivals in Italy, Brazil, Poland and, of course, Chicago. In early 2024, James was featured in Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble as they celebrated the group's 50th anniversary with a new album and tours of Europe and North America.

Drawing on his Dominican heritage, Sanders formed the Latin jazz ensemble James Sanders' Conjunto in 2001. The band, whose membership expands and contracts in accordance with the artistic requirements of any given project, performs regularly at clubs and festivals around Chicago and the Midwest. A 10-piece version plus guests and a dance company performed before nearly 10,000 people at the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park in 2011. In 2022 and 2023, Conjunto collaborated with Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center to create Stories From the West Side, two projects incorporating music, dance, and storytelling to explore the life experiences of Chicago's historic Latino communities.

In addition to Conjunto, he leads the Blue Violin Quartet. an ensemble dedicated to straight-ahead jazz. He regularly collaborates with members of Chicago's AACM collective and has played in several groups, including the Harrison Bankhead Sextet, Dee Alexander's Evolution Ensemble, Doug Lofstrom's New Quartet, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, and Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. Sanders is also a member of the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre music ensemble where he has composed original works for dance.

In 2013, Sanders formed Proyecto Libre, an ensemble that pulls equally from free improvisation and Afro-Latin traditions. In the spirit of experimentation, personnel vary from performance to performance. Members have included Joshua Abrams, Harrison Bankhead, Avreeayl Ra, Jean-Christophe Leroy, Edward Wilkerson and Michael Zerang.

In addition to these ensembles, James collaborates with bassist Christian Dillingham, drummer Avreeayl Ra and guitarist Matt Gold in The Dark Matter String Band. The group explores the idea of early 20th Century African-American string band music in a 21st Century context.

James is also engaged in a series of recordings that feature Original Music for Violin & Drums with noted drummers and percussionists from jazz, new music and Afro-Caribbean backgrounds, often accompanied by original choreography and released as videos.

James continues to be a classical violinist and has been a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta since 1993. In addition to sitting in the First Violin section, James mentors young musicians through the orchestra's Project Inclusion and SEED programs. He has developed a curriculum for teaching fundamentals of improvisation to classically trained string players.

James also teaches and coordinates the string program for the Arlington Heights, IL school district. He is on the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago."

-James Sanders Website (https://www.jamessandersviolin.com/about)
6/12/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Ishmael Ali is a first generation Filipino-Arab-American cellist, guitarist, improviser, composer, and electronic artist currently residing in Chicago. His work centers on exploring sound through improvisation, experimentation, collaboration, as well as a wide array of idiomatic approaches in an ever-changing, always-growing list of projects with diverse focuses and influences.Though varying drastically from group to group, a common thread in his work is the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate elements to create something new: both foreign and familiar.

In addition to performing, Mr. Ali is a co-founder and audio engineer at the recording space Marmalade in Chicago and was the founder and director of the now inoperative music and art space, Orotund Music. He continues to work as an organizer and promoter through the music series OBTC."

-Ishmael Ali Website (https://ishmaelalimusic.com/)
6/12/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



1. All Blues 06:59

2. Barundi 08:02

3. The Whole World 04:48

4. Return of the Lost Tribe 06:39

5. Hang Tuff 06:06

6. Can you Find a Place 07:28

7. Great Black Music 07:09

8. Passion Dance 05:24

9. Ornette 07:20

10. Compared to What 08:18

11. Kari 06:15

12. Open Me 06:04

Related Categories of Interest:


Improvised Music
Jazz
Free Improvisation
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
Trio Recordings
Quintet Recordings
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
Song Based Music
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New in Improvised Music
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