February 1, 2007
Kahil ElZabars Ritual Trio featuring Billy Bang
Big M: A Tribute To Malachi Favors
Delmark DE 572
Bittersweet celebration of veteran Chicago bassist Malachi Favors Maghoustut (1927-2004), who piloted the Ritual Trio for 18 years, Big M is more than merely reverential since it confirms the talents of the remaining band members.
Percussionist Kahil ElZabar, who also plays kalimba, flute and vocalizes here, pays tribute to the bassist with whom he played for a remarkable 38 years starting when he was 16 with seven compositions, four of which are named for Favors. Using the steady resonation of his regular drum kit, ElZabar, gives many pieces a sturdy bottom in convergence with the blunt tongue stops and rough honking of tenor saxophonist Ari Brown. Also an accomplished pianist, Browns expressive reed arpeggios solidify in counterpoint with the sweeping strings of violinist Billy Bang. A long-time associate of the Ritual three, the fiddlers slinky and silky multiphonics are most prominent on the title tune, as his metallic-sounding, pitch-sliding friction inflates as ElZabars tambourine rattles.
The moderato OOF named for Favors powerful pizzicato and Maghoustut highlight both celebration and invention. On the former jagged thumb-piano scrapes and ankle bell beats from the percussionist complement Browns obbligatos and Bangs spiky spiccato tones, which are alternately concussive and harmonic. On the later, hollow log-like pulsations from ElZabars earth drum contrapuntally accompany sandpaper-rough triple-stopping from Bang.
Contributing guitar-like plucks in the basss highest register or chunky string bounces throughout, Yosef Ben Israel proves hes equal to the unenviable task of taking Favors place.
— Ken Waxman
For Whole Note Vol. 12 #5