Kahil El'Zabar

Love Outside of Dreams

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While the music on this disc stands as yet another fine addition to Kahil El'Zabar's catalogue of collaborative jazz science, it should be noted first that this trio date is the final recording session of the late bassist Fred Hopkins, who died of heart disease six months after they were completed. Upon first listen, the striking and remarkable thing about Love Outside of Dreams sounds like a trio that had been playing together for no less than five or ten years. It's not just the intuition or the way in which Murray's and El'Zabar's tunes are executed, but the sheer and very muscular musicality the band plays with. This is music with a lot of improvisational fire at its center, yet, because of the strength and communication between the players, the nature of the music, it's affirmative and empathetic need to reach out of itself, is articulated with great verve by the trio. The opener and title track features Murray moving through the melodic statement and theme unencumbered by the rhythm section's simultaneous insistence to swing. He makes it knotty and complex, and then allows himself to open to their groove -- which is considerable. On Murray's "Song for a New South Africa," El'Zabar adopts hand percussion to open, and Murray borrows a line from Dudu Pakwana to create an evolving thematic scheme. It begins and moves toward another melody before returning and then incorporates that line into a funky kind of break that El'Zabar tempers before Hopkins comes in to mediate with a loping pizzicato, played sparely and in the pocket. "Meditation for the Celestial Warriors" is dedicated to Hopkins and his former bandmate, the late Steve McCall. Murray's beautiful, warm tone, always rough on the edges, wafts like a wisp of smoke over the African thumb piano, blowing low and mournful. Spirits and ghosts are in the center between them as they intone, a sad prayer that simultaneously pays tribute and remembers. The minor-key swing of Murray's "The Ebullient Duke" is a marked difference in the proceedings, but it is also the place where Hopkins shines brightest, curling around the drum kit and popping deep blues riffs in the accents, which Murray clearly feeds off of when he begins to quote loosely from Ellington. Hopkins ups the ante three different times in the improvisation, turning the original tune inside out before turning it on itself one more time top bring it back. He swings so hard that no matter what's going on, he cannot be diverted from his purpose. It's a beautiful cut and a fitting send off for Hopkins, one of the most durable and enduring bassists of the free jazz era.

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