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Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: 21st Century Union March

When folks speak of the fleeting enterprise of the band these days, its not the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble they have in mind. Though each of its three sojourners-percussionist Kahil El’Zabar, reedist Edward Wilkerson, and trombonist Joseph Bowie-is engaged in several regular projects as leaders in true AACM fashion, their coming together under this roof is closing in on 20 years. El’Zabar’s percussion exploits serve as the hub around which Wilkerson and Bowie’s horns revolve and the collective enterprise is always arresting in both design and execution.

This is music not of an overly intellectual bent, it is instead so simultaneously earthy and ethereal as to conjure rich colorations and dreamscapes. Perhaps the highlight is Kahil’s lovely “Dear Albert,” particularly when broken down to the bare essence of Wilkerson’s unusual, parched tenor tone and El’Zabar’s insistent sanza. The track, “Fanfare,” calls for Kahil’s earth drum sounding the call and proceeding intrepidly through the thicket of Bowie and Wilkerson’s understated unison. Musical hypnosis is the name of this game.

Originally Published