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Mama's House Live 35th Anniversary Project

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Album Review

It was actually saxophonist Ed Wilkerson, Jr. who founded the two-horns-plus-drums format of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble with Light Henry Huff and Kahil El'Zabar in 1973. Several personnel changes and 35 years later, saxophonist Ernest Khabeer Dawkins celebrated the founding of this prototypical AACM group at Sangha, with newest member trumpeter Corey Wilkes and El'Zabar, to play music from their collective repertoires over the years. Because of the parallel realities with El'Zabar's Ritual Trio, a remembrance of music from that group is also utilized. Lengthy solos, the vocalized and multiple percussion sounds from El'Zabar, and the spot-on piquant and throaty-flavored horns of Dawkins and Wilkes drive these short themes and long discourses on African-based creative improvised music stewed in groove form. "Oof" is at the beginning of this set, borrowed from the Ritual Trio's set at the River East Art Center as their last number. It's similar to El'Zabar's tribute to Malachi Favors, a mbira/tambourine-based epitaph with ramped-up trumpet and lean alto sax solos. "Kari" is a new piece very much in the Art Ensemble of Chicago vein, with Dawkins on the sonic tube or bloogle inciting a workout groove and forceful solos. Originally from the Freedom Jazz Dance recording featuring Joseph Bowie, "Mama's House" is sweet and serene but firm, as an Afro-Caribbean beat is laid out to improvise from, with some counterpoint from Wilkes and El'Zabar's all too present vocal work. Also first done on Freedom Jazz Dance, "Barundi" (spelled either incorrectly or on purpose) has Dawkins on high-register alto sounding flute-like as the simmering rhythms and clear unity of the band are in full flight. The inimitable "All Blues" takes the venerable Miles Davis jazz standard to the rain forest, and "Ornette" (done by both of the aforementioned groups, as heard on the Delmark label releases Renaissance of the Resistance and The Continuum) is played here again as the band chants Ornette Coleman's name, goes into a conga and handclap groove, and evinces the kind of thematic angular melody line identifiable with the founder of free jazz via vocal shouts, an alternate theme from Wilkes, and a patented alto solo from Dawkins. The group is well recorded, sounds inspired, and puts on what most would realize as a typical performance. Merging these disparate elements within the African world continuum is easy for these undisputed masters of modern music, altogether refreshing in redefining past victories to bring listeners an updated overview in the career of one of the more durable bands to come out of Chicago, where Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future made its home. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Mama's House Live 35th Anniversary Project, Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Blues
  • Released: Sep 01, 2011

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