Kahil El'Zabar


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During two months a year, percussionist Kahil El'Zabar teaches at the Academy of Music in the city of Bordeaux in France. In 2005 he led a 39-piece orchestra that consisted of younger French musicians plus a pair of American guests: trombonist Joseph Bowie and altoist Ernest Dawkins. Three of the five selections from this concert are quite lengthy and the structures overall tend to be fairly simple, usually just alternating between two chords. However the solos are adventurous and of consistently high quality, the settings are modern and the music is mostly pretty exciting. A turntablist is utilized on one song and one wishes he appeared more often. In contrast, the rapping in French on "Nu Art Claiming Earth" is merely annoying and a time waster. Among the most impressive soloists in addition to the Americans are tenor saxophonists Arnaud Rouanet and Karlis Vanags, trumpeter Piero Pepin, clarinetist Jean Dousteyssier, 15-year-old altoist Benoit Berthe and trombonist Guillaume Pique. Kahil El'Zabar, who only plays percussion on one tune, conducts the huge ensemble and contributed all of the selections. Even if one wishes the songs were a bit more complex, this is an infectious set of celebratory music.

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