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Kahil El’Zabar/Billy Bang: Spirits Entering

Here’s an album of violin-percussion duets, and once you adjust to the unusual instrumentation, the music proves engaging, often charming and clever. Bang is an attractive violinist with genuine melodic gifts and a sophisticated feeling for improvised form. Like fellow violinist Leroy Jenkins, there’s a strain of folk music in his phrasing (his long-toned lines in “Golden Sea”); like saxophonist (not violinist) Ornette Coleman, he likes to form solos using motivic developments; moreover, the title piece (by Bang) sounds like an early Coleman tune. He likes to introduce tension by playing at a somewhat faster tempo than Zabar. Hearing “Love Outside of Dreams,” with its melancholy theme and then Bang’s climax-ordered solo structure, we might wish he were an entire string section; in an opposite piece, “The Ituri Fantasy,” he becomes a gypsy player, with mournful droops and pathetic flourishes.

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