Chicago’s legendary spiritual jazz shaman Kahil El’Zabar returns, leading an enviable ensemble of young masters from his hometown!
Kahil El’Zabar delivers yet another epic double LP’s worth of ancient/future music for the mind, body and soul. From swinging jazz that sings of his Chicago pedigree, to talking drums and soothing spiritual grooves that reconnect Black Classical Music with its African roots.
Multi-percussionist, band-leader, vocalist, composer, conductor and educator, Kahil El’Zabar has been at the forefront of the unceasingly creative avant-garde jazz scene in Chicago and beyond for over 4 decades. Considered the pioneer of spiritual groove and Afrocentric jazz, El’Zabar has recorded & performed with heavyweights such as Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Billy Bang, Lester Bowie, Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder, to name a few.
Returning to his natural home on Spiritmuse Records, ‘A Time for Healing’ answers the urgent questions posed by his sold-out ‘America The Beautiful’ album, addressing the state of affairs today whilst calling for a better tomorrow. Hugely successful and universally acclaimed, the album was championed by Pitchfork, the Guardian and Gilles Peterson. As ever, the Chicago legend surrounds himself with the hottest young talent. Sonic scientist, Isaiah Collier joins on saxophone. Following his recent acclaimed album, ‘Cosmic Transitions’ LP, he has been hailed as the new ‘Coltrane’. Suffice to say, he doesn’t disappoint, as El’Zabar leads the ensemble through hypnotic groove after groove, providing Collier with ample space to improvise and uplift, channeling the spiritual sound of Trane and Pharoah.
Following stand-out performances on ‘America The Beautiful’ and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble album, ‘Be Known Ancient/Future/Music’, El’Zabar disciple Corey Wilkes, considered one of best trumpeters in the world today, returns and shines once again. Having also worked with the likes of Roy Hargrove, Kurt Elling, Greg Osby and Marcus Belgrave, and who also filled the considerable shoes of Lester Bowie in The Art Ensemble of Chicago, leads stellar groups of his own, and has received plaudits from NPR and the Chicago Tribune.
Keyboard wizard Justin Dillard, who truly shone on his collaboration with El’Zabar on ‘Spirit Groove’, returns for another stellar performance, steeped in the heritage of Dr. Lonnie Smith and McCoy Tyner. Chicago Tribune puts it this way, “there’s something more to Dillard’s work as well; a quest for new ideas in music, in the manner of his AACM mentors”. His earthy Hammond grooves simultaneously ground and lift the quartet’s sound.
Kahil El’Zabar explores the gamut of Great Black Music in America, tracing its lineage through all the movements that’s flourished in Chicago, from the blues to R&B, soul, gospel, house music, spiritual jazz, and then back to all of its common African roots. This is captured brilliantly on the title track, where kalimba and spirit bowls evoke the ancestors, before the horns commence a yearning refrain, calling for guidance and healing. Then, El’Zabar’s new tomorrow hails its’ arrival on “The Coming Of Spring”, a beautiful swinging number full of joy and hope.
El’Zabar continues to pay homage to his mentors and idols, dedicating one “electrifying” number to tenor legend and electrified sax pioneer “Eddie Harris”. Long undervalued, his footprint nonetheless persists, as world renowned DJs no-less-than Theo Parris turn new audiences on to his avant-garde grooves. Elsewhere, “Resolution”, the central piece of Coltrane’s revered ‘Love Supreme’, is transformed by the quartet, with Dillard providing a fresh low-end groove on Hammond before delivering a stellar solo.
The album closes on a beautiful and hauntingly sparse treatment of Gershwin’s “Summertime”. Centered around El’Zabar’s legendary kalimba playing and a hummed groove. Wilkes, Collier and El’Zabar deliver the standard’s well-travelled melody with unheard depths and heart-wrenching spirituality.
Recorded in December 2020 in Chicago, ‘A Time For Healing’ is not only the answer to the urgent questions asked by El’Zabar’s ‘America the Beautiful’; its’ spiritual and ever probing human journey offers a regenerative opus in the face of growing global anxiety. What the world needs right now is exactly what El’Zabar and his quartet have on offer: A Time for Healing.