Kahil El’Zabar spreads the word about Spiritual Jazz

While Melodic Distraction’s Toby Taylor seems to think that Spiritual Jazz is an entire genre unto itself, he does give Ethnic Heritage Ensemble (EHE) leader percussionist/ Kahil El’Zabar space to suggest that with much contemporary Jazz performance sterile and academically oriented, there’s a need for bands like the EHE. The EHE aims for a higher form of expression as well as acknowledging the musical history of different communities of African descent.  Influenced by the sounds he heard growing up in Chicago, El’Zabar first organized the EHE in 1973 and it has gone through many permutations as a trio or quartet since then to settle on the present line-up of himself, baritone saxophonist Alex Harding, trumpeter Corey Wilkes and cellist Ian Maksin. Explaining that the EHE consistently challenges the harmonic and sonic capabilities of modern sounds, El’Zabar credits his capabilities to his parents who exposed him to Jazz ranging from Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker to John Coltrane and Sun Ra with special emphasis on local legends like saxophonists Von Freeman and Gene Ammons. El’Zabar, who is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians cites other AACM members like pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Malachi Favors and drummer Steve McCall as crucial to his individual musical development.