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Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

Spirit Gatherer - Tribute to Don Cherry (DELUXE EDITION) [VINYL 2 LPs]

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Spirit Gatherer - Tribute to Don Cherry (DELUXE EDITION) [VINYL 2 LPs] (Spiritmuse Records)

A tribute to jazz trumpeter & composer Don Cherry--a spiritual world traveler and influential free jazz trumpeter--performed by Chicago's equally spiritual Ethnic Heritage Ensemble led by percussionist Kahil El'Zabar with Corey Wilkes, Alex Harding, Dwight Trible, and the son of Don Cherry, David Ornette Cherry; sadly also an unexpected tribute to David Ornette's sudden passing in 2022.

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product information:

UPC: 634457122352

Label: Spiritmuse Records
Catalog ID: LP-KEZ-010X
Squidco Product Code: 33188

Format: 2 LPs
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: UK
Packaging: Gatefold Double LP
Recorded at CoLabyrinth, in Chicago, Illinois, in February, 2022, by Lee Farmer and Imran Shabazz.


Kahil El'Zabar-multi percussion, balafon, kalimba, voice

Corey Wilkes-trumpet, spirit bowls, percussion

Alex Harding-baritone saxophone

Dwight Trible-voice

David Ornette Cherry-piano, melodicam, douss n gouni

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Anyone who was chair of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians for a decade knows a thing or two about keeping a group of independently minded artists focused on a common goal. Drummer and percussionist Kahil El'Zabar continues to demonstrate that with his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, an acoustic, improvising trio with an African foundation that has been recording since 1981. Most of the musicians who have passed through the group have been longtime members. The 2023 lineup comprises trumpeter Corey Wilkes, on board since 2007, and baritone saxophonist Alex Harding, the newbie, who joined in 2019.

The gritty, groovecentric and exquisitely beautiful Spirit Gatherer is a tribute to Don Cherry, who was a profound influence on El'Zabar as a man and as a creative musician. The trio is joined by vocalist Dwight Trible and Cherry's son, pianist and melodica player David Ornette Cherry, producing a spiritual-jazz blinder that is a highwater mark of post-2000 jazz. The eleven tracks include six El'Zabar originals plus five covers of legacy material which El'Zabar associates in one way or another with Don Cherry: Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," the John Coltrane tweak "Sketches Of A Love Supreme," Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't," Pharoah Sanders's "Harvest Time" and Cherry's own "Degi-Degi." (El'Zabar talks about his choice of repertoire in an interview to be published by AAJ later in April 2023).

The album is best summed up as "quietly shamanistic." Most of the time, "shamanistic" is used to describe high energy, high-decibel workouts which produce catharsis but not necessarily uplift. Spirit Gatherer is passionate but relatively softly spoken, its motor rhythms primal but harnessed, its lyricism unbroken. It is cleansing but it also leaves in its wake a feeling of harmony, love and optimism.

The opening track is El'Zabar's tribute "Don Cherry." The lyric is a simple repetition of the words "Don Cherry," an invocation that, framed by El'Zabar's percussion and Corey and David Cherry's lamenting trumpet and melodica, makes as meaning-packed a salute to Cherry as any long-form lyric could. Check the YouTube below. Next up is Coleman's "Lonely Woman." This time Trible offers a chilling one-verse recitative that seems to be about a neglected older woman, living out her final years forgotten, in poverty and uncared for. It is the only down moment on the album and is deeply moving. Other highlights include El'Zabar's self-explanatory "Bop On," a gloriously unreconstructed "Well You Needn't," and El'Zaba's noirish "The Opening." Three of the tracks are by the core trio only.

Solace for the soul, Spirit Gatherer's running time is seventy-five minutes but seems shorter.

Postscript: David Ornette Cherry suffered a fatal asthma attack in a London hotel room on November 20 2022. His final performance, earlier that evening at the Barbican Centre, was a tribute concert to his father with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble."-Chris May, All About Jazz

Also available as a CD.
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 (

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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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"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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"Dwight Trible is an American jazz singer, living in Los Angeles. He has made albums in collaboration with Carlos Gabriel Niño, John Beasley, and Matthew Halsall, releasing them on Ninja Tune and Gondwana Records. He was an original member of Pure Essence.

Mike Hobart, wrote in the Financial Times that "Trible has been forging his particular slant on spiritual-modal jazz for decades, delivering his love-is-the-answer message with clear diction, rich tones and a beautifully controlled vibrato. Trible's sonic range adds a dash of Isaac Hayes gravel to the imperious sonorities of Barry White, and, like them, he steeps his voice in the inflections of gospel-soul and the blues. But, having worked with the likes of Pharaoh Sanders and Charles Lloyd, he is equally in control of the nuances and demands of jazz."

Andrew Gilbert wrote in JazzTimes that "few musicians have done more to cultivate the L.A. [jazz] scene over the past four decades" than Trible. "

-Wikipedia (

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"David Ornette Cherry (1958-2022) grew up in Watts, California. This Watts young man later won the 2003 ASCAP- Chamber Music America Award for adventurous Programming of Contempory Music. He writes, arranges, and improvises music from sunrise to sunset.

The pulses and melodies that arise from his jazz, classical, African, world music background, and from playing with some of the great jazz artists of our times, speak about our human experiences through the the language of sound. He listens with an open heart and fresh mind to his collaborators and the world around him in a way that makes his compositions not only music, but a way of life a positive form of energy, and a way to connect. Current work is titled Ensemble for Improvisors. He trains young musicians in world music, theory, and piano.

David was born the same year Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry recorded their first album, SOMETHIN ELSE. The ambient music streaming through his childhood was generated by the early collaborations of his dad, Don Cherry, with Coleman and the musicians who visited his parents' Mariposa Avenue home in Los Angeles.

However, it was a wood-chopping accident one summer in Sweden that sealed David's musical fate as he was confined to music study and later performing with his Dad at the age of sixteen years old."


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Track Listing:


1. Don Cherry 05:56

2. Lonely Woman 09:15

3. Evocation 03:38


1. Degi-Degi 08:07

2. Sketches of A Love Supreme 06:41

3. Bop On 05:14


1. Holy Man 04:56

2. Well You Needn't 06:14

3. The Opening 07:33


1. Harvest Time 07:28

2. Spirit Gatherer 10:33

Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
Quintet Recordings
Song Based Music
New in Improvised Music
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