Kahil El'Zabar's longstanding Ethnic Heritage Ensemble return with a live gig recorded at Ascension Loft (El'Zabar's performance space) in 2006. El'Zabar is a rhythm master who realized the power of the groove long ago and his ability to set up mesmerizing rhythms is on full display here. Guitarist Fareed Haque plays mostly a rhythm role (note there is no bass player), leaving the bulk of the soloing to Corey Wilkes and Ernest Dawkins. Even so, his playing is always interesting as he moves between chordal comping and single-string lines, hitting harmonics and playing behind the nut at one point and even playing some prepared guitar. The band gets some other crazy sounds (for a live jazz gig), especially on "There Is a Place" with Wilkes' cool processed trumpet solo. He also utilizes some kind of wah effect on "Major to Minor." Ernest Dawkins also takes some excellent solos, bringing some real fire to "Hot 'n' Heavy" and "Black as Vera Cruz." El'Zabar shows his versatility, moving from congas to kalimba (the beautiful "MT," for Malachi Thompson) to the drum kit. His rhythms are organic and relentless, and reach to the core of human experience. Those ancient rhythms coupled with forward-looking improvisers have made the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble one of Chicago's jazz treasures for more than a quarter century.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard