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Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

Be Known Ancient/Future/Music [2 LPS]

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Be Known Ancient/Future/Music [2 LPS] (Spiritmuse Records)

Led by Chicago percussionist and AACM member Kahil El'Zabar and founded in 1981, Ethnic Heritage Ensemble releases this album of Afro-centric spiritual jazz, El'Zabar's voice drawing us into the compelling rhythms and grooves he and cellist Ian Maksin provide as foundations for baritone saxophonist Alex Harding and trumpeter Corey Wilkes' profound soloing.

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product information:

UPC: 5060676740001

Label: Spiritmuse Records
Catalog ID: LP-KEZ-001X
Squidco Product Code: 27525

Format: 2LPS
Condition: New
Released: 2019
Country: UK
Packaging: Vinyl LP in a Gatefold Sleeve (2 LPs)
Recorded at Uptown Recording Studio, in Chicago, Illinois, on November 18th, 2018, by Rob Ruccia.


Alex Harding-baritone saxophone

Ian Maksin-cello

Corey Wilkes-trumpet, percussion

Kahil El'Zabar-voice, percussion

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Artist Biographies:

"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 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 (

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"Breaking boundaries both musical and geographical, cellist, composer and multi-lingual vocalist Ian Maksin has created and developed his own unique style by blending elements of different styles in a new way using his cello as the main unifying force. Equally brilliant in every genre in its pure form, from classical to jazz and blues, and from Latin to Balkan and Middle Eastern music, he can be seen performing a cello concert with a symphony orchestra one night and playing in a jazz club the following. His passionate interpretations and soulful sound have generated a contagious universal and ever-growing appeal to diverse audiences across the world. Ian gives nearly 200 performances annually on all continents delivering the magical sounds to hundreds of thousands concert and digital listeners globally.

During the 2019 international tour season, Ian Maksin, backed up by Zaria Band (currently consisting of musicians from over 20 countries at different times) will share with the audience some of the latest additions to his already incredibly vast repertoire: songs in Arabic, Farsi and Georgian, as well as brand new original instrumental compositions inspired by his recent travels to countries in the Caucasus region as well as Eastern Siberia infused with elements of Georgian and Armenian folk music, as well as chants of shamans of Tuva and Mongolia. In 2019 he will also dedicate more space in his repertoire to classical compositions from J.S. Bach to contemporary music by living composers.

Born in Leningrad, USSR (now Saint-Petersburg, Russia) into a multicultural family, Ian Maksin began playing cello at age six at the Special School for Gifted Children at the Leningrad Conservatory and later continued at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he moved to at age seventeen on his own. After many years working with several prestigious symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles in the classical realm, Ian chose a new musical path: exploring his own personal artistic voice by way of fusing styles and using all of the musical baggage that he had been collecting all of his life - from music of all sorts of genres that he listened to as a kid to blues and rock guitar skills that he acquired along with learning the cello, which allowed him to expand the capabilities of the cello in a completely new and unique direction. Ian Maksin's artistry goes well beyond concert halls, recordings and internet: he often performs at schools, foster care homes, retirement homes, hospitals and for other community outreach engagements. He also organizes projects and jam sessions with musicians from different corners of the world and with young aspiring artists. According to Ian himself: "at some point I realized that music was much more than just a compilation of sounds for mere entertainment of both musician and listener, but something much bigger - a force capable of healing, inspiration, unity and reconciliation among people on a global scale. I believe cello can save the world"."

-Ian Maksin Website (

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"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 (

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"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 (

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track listing:


1. N2 Deep (For Randy Weston, Jerry Gonzalez & Cecil Taylor) 5:37

2. Freedom Jazz Dance 5:15

3. Little Sunflower (For Roy Hargrove) 6:59

4. Be Known 3:48


1. Black Is Back 9:59

2. Blew It (For Hamiet Bluiett) 8:00

3. Wish I Knew (From the Film 'Be Known') 2:47


1. Pharoah 7:12

2. Lost in Myself (Live at the Loving Cup) 12:31

3. Ntozake (For Ntozake Shange) 2:02


1. Little Sunflower - Percussion (For Freddie Hubbard) 8:18

2. Oof (Live at the Loving Cup) 16:34
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"New spiritual jazz album by the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, led by legendary Chicago percussionist Kahil El'Zabar, an artist in a league of his own, acknowledged throughout the world as the leader in the vanguard of spiritual and afro-futuristic jazz.

Alongside El'Zabar on multi-percussion & vocals is Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Alex Harding on baritone sax and Ian Maksin on cello. This is beautiful Afro-centric spiritual jazz on the forefront of the current popular jazz scene.

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble's music... "seeks to spark a time in which heightened sensibility and higher consciousness will universally be known"."-Spiritmuse Records

"The first album by The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble was released in 1981, with Kahil El'Zabar on percussion on vocals, and Ed Wilkerson and 'Light' Henry Huff on saxes. The trio had already performed at festivals and concerts many years before that.

Most of their initial albums were live performances (Bologna, Helsinki, Stockholm, ...). Henry Huff was replaced by Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre on sax, who was in turn succeeded by Joseph Bowie on trombone in the eighties. A new iteration of the trio came with the arrival of Khabeer Ernest Dawkins on saxes and Corey Wilkes on trumpet, with the occasional presence of Fareed Haque on guitar.

On this album we have Kahil El'Zabar on vocals, thumb piano, drums and percussion, Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Alex Harding on baritone sax, and Ian Maksin on cello.

Despite the many changes in line-up over the years, the ensemble's music has not changed at all. Even if some of the tracks have different names, many of the tunes can be recognised. Some of the Ethnic Hertigage Ensemble 'hits' are of course also performed, such as the funky "Freedom Jazz Dance", originally composed by Eddie Harris, and in the meantime a kind of signature tune for this band.

Other tunes include the beautiful Freddie Hubbard composition, "Little Sunflower", and some old and new compositions such as "Black Is Back", "Wish I Knew", "Ntozake". Whatever theme they touch, and in whatever decade they performed the music, is almost irrelevant. Their sound is still so grooving, bopping and dancing that it is among the most infectious music you can find. El'Zabar has the incredible strength to draw any audience inside his music and make them part of it, which explains why many of his albums are live performances. Not many jazz bands are as welcoming as this one.

As the band's title tells us, this music is deeply rooted in the African heritage of the musicians, with clear references to the blues, but also to - especially - South African music and jazz. It is their deliberate intention to raise consciousness and to bring us to a higher spiritual level, one that is more universal than the boundaries we draw to define and protect ourselves. And they succeed. It's really hard not to like this music, and even the fact that there has been hardly any change of sound and approach over the last fourty years is not necessarily a negative, because you can recognise El'Zabar's music right away. He is a wonderful percussionist, and the collaboration with Wilkes and Harding is absolutely seamless, as well as with Maksin whose plucked bass lines on the cello add to the boppish feel.

In short, this music is festive, joyful, celebrating music and life, even if it can be very sad too at moments. On the last track, "Ooof", Wilkes delivers possibly one of the most bluesy trumpet pieces I've heard since the Trumpet Kings performance at Montreux in 1975.

If there is a downside to be mentioned, it is that some tracks are cut short, reducing the full power of the improvisations, and taking away the reaction of the audience at the end. I know, El'Zabar can go on for hours, but that's part of the fun. There is no reason to stop, and it's only by listening to maddening rhythms for a very long time that you can really appreciate the full power of this trance-inducing music. Switch on the repeat button."-Stef, The Free Jazz Collective

Also available on CD.

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

The Squid
The Squid's Ear!

Get additional information at The Free Jazz Collective
Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
Quartet Recordings

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