Best known for vibrant live concert performances, Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio feature jazz from an African improvised perspective, and the precepts of the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Musicians based in Chicago. This club date at Chi-town's Hot House in the fall of 2000 is released eight years after being recorded. It marks a prior coming of age for El'Zabar, who plays the drum kit almost exclusively (he is featured on the booklet with a giant mbira), and always honors the celebratory aspect of music making. Bassist Malachi Favors is here, as is Ari Brown who is heard on the piano throughout, and tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders guests on two tracks. The recording quality is a bit thin, but good enough to clearly hear all the players, especially Brown's fine melodic inventions. On the opener "Autumn Leaves," after a spiritual inspired intro, Brown stretches out and owns this well-worn standard, followed by bass and drum solos. Brown is consistent, insistent, swings easily and his ideas are very good. "In The Land Of Ooh!" with Sanders ventures into John Coltrane territory in a free no-time exercise, building intensity to a fever pitch, calmed, then built back up via the animated and excitable building blocks Pharoah piles on high. "This Little Light Of Mine" could be easily titled "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," for their simple melodic themes are similar. The trio plays this, sans Sanders or lyrics, in an easy swing, and the ringing bass of Favors is most evident as the central holy modal rounder and soothsayer. The finale "Ka's Blues," at a brief seven minutes, has Brown in the intro honking on tenor in an R&B bar walking style, then goes back to piano while Sanders takes over, screaming, shouting and verbally urging the group into their get down mood. It sounds like they play a little together but it's hard to tell. El'Zabar's concept of ritualism is all inclusive, communal and sharing. He also defines "ooh" as "operative oracles for humanity," a proud occupational title these great musicians certainly live up to on this fine audio document of their work.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos