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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Hot 'n' Heavy

Delmark DVD 1574




1. Major to Minor
2. MT
3. Hot 'n' Heavy
4. There is a Place
5. Black as Vera Cruz


Kahil El'Zabar Earth drums, kalimba, drums, percussion
Corey Wilkes - Trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion
Ernest "Khabeer" Dawkins - Alto sax, tenor sax, percussion
Fareed Haque - Electric guitar, acoustic guitar

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is a quartet of versatile musicians who mix together a variety of musical styles, including jazz, avant-garde, African and Latin-American. This DVD shows them in action at Kahil El'Zabar's Ascension Loft in Chicago before a small audience. Unfortunately, the action is sometimes obscured by the film being overlaid with blurred pastel-coloured images. It is a relief when these distractions disappear but annoying whenever they reappear. In fact they came near to spoiling my enjoyment of this DVD, as they make parts of the DVD virtually unwatchable.

Nevertheless there is some interesting music to be discerned. The basic style is jazz but this is very loose, with the trumpet and saxophone often improvising freely over the base laid down by guitar and percussion. MT is a tribute to Malachi Thompson, who died shortly before this DVD was filmed. It opens with Kahil playing the kalimba (thumb piano) behind the horns, which make the tune resemble a Jazz Messengers piece.

Hot 'n ' Heavy sounds as if it might have been devised by Don Cherry or Albert Ayler but in fact (like all the tracks on the album) it was composed by Kahil. There is a Place is slower and more meditative, with a chorale-like theme. Black as Vera Cruz includes an extended solo from Kahil on earth drums. None of the five tracks lasts for less than 12 minutes, which allows the musicians to stretch out - sometimes self-indulgently but generally creatively.

I am not usually a fan of the avant-garde but the music here is sufficiently coherent to attract people who don't like anything too far out. The DVD includes an interview with Kahil which helps to explain the background to the music.

Tony Augarde


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