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Kahil El’Zabar/David Murray: One World Family

Percussionist Kahil El’Zabar and the mercurial composer/multiinstrumentalist David Murray each epitomize in their actions and approach the highest aspects of the jazz life. They’re dedicated to a musical vision unconcerned with trends or prevailing wisdom, and they emphasize original composition rather than recreation or repertory. El’Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble CDs masterfully combine bustling African and African-American rhythms with fierce jazz solos, while Murray cuts everything from stomping big-band sessions to gospel, octet tributes to Coltrane and world-music explorations. Their collaboration on One World Family continues the duo’s commitment to high-caliber music that ignores categories. Such tunes as “Ryan’s Groove” blend mbira melodies and swaggering tenor, while “Far Too Long” and “Serendipitous Journey” venture outside and back, buoyed by Murray’s always splendid tenor and/or bass clarinet solos and El’Zabar’s ability to provide ideal sound and rhythm colorations alongside and underneath.

The duo can also get playful or funky- witness the two takes of “Noodle Doodle,” or “Junction Function.” While Murray’s certainly influenced by the other-worldly flights of Albert Ayler, he’s just as enamored of the lusty, alluring tenor style championed by Ben Webster. He can get lowdown and in the groove as much as any soul-jazz or ballad specialist, and El’Zabar’s able to lay down simple, tight beats or straightahead 4/4 patterns if necessary. Because they’re so knowledgeable and versatile, El’Zabar and Murray often make multiple musical leaps within a composition, moving back and forth between established and flowing structures. They’ll quote the blues, shift into a free piece or come out swinging. In addition, the mastering and engineering on this disc are light years better than what’s available on many major-label works.

Every instrument El’Zabar plays, from trap drums to shakers and rattles, resounds with clarity, while Murray’s tenor and bass clarinet sojourns are just as distinct and shattering, from their highest leap to their lowest note. One World Family is exquisite, soulful and highly personal music, performed with care and integrity.

Originally Published