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Kahil El’Zabar Remembers Billy Bang

The remarkable jazz violinist died last April 11

Billy Bang
Kahil El'Zabar

My man Billy Bang was tough and tender. The music he made had sublime surrender. You got to feel “The Bang,” as Billy always referred to himself. The life force in this cat is eternal! All of you aware ones and those who are not, dig this: William Walker, better known to the world at large as Billy Bang, was and is a phenomenon. I sincerely recommend you go and listen as well as watch a video of one of the true greats.

Bang was a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran. He attained the rank of sergeant and was respected by all of his men because of his leadership and compassion. Those same qualities were prevalent in his approach to music. We all loved his playing and music, whether it was in the early days of his career in New York City, hanging and playing with cats like William Parker, Roy Campbell and the String Trio of New York, or later with giants like Don Cherry, Lester Bowie, Sun Ra, Denis Charles and his main man Frank Lowe, or collaborating over the years with myself and Hamiet Bluiett.

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