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Mercury Jazz "The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble"


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Nugget Promotions and Nujazz Productions present

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

Wednesday February 20, 2002

Mercury Lounge


The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble has been "breaking the habits of boredom and pushing beyond nostalgia into the present" for almost 20 years. Their music fuses traditional African rhythmic and melodic sensibilities with popular African American musical expression. The Ensemble's unique instrumentation - trap drums, African and Latin hand-percussion, saxophone, trombone, digeridoo, bass clarinet and kalimba - endow their music with a warm textural richness and depth. Within a framework of organic, understated compositions, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble imparts an ancestral wisdom and conjures an energy and spark rarely encountered in contemporary music.

In 1976, Kahil El'Zabar, having just graduated from the school of Chicago's legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, teamed up with tenor saxophonist and Edward Wilkerson, Jr. Wilkerson has been called "one of the most thoughtful minds in modern experimental music," and is himself the leader of the premier Windy City octet Eight Bold Souls and big band Shadow Vignettes. Kahil El'Zabar is an accomplished trap drummer, having worked with acclaimed soul, blues and R&B artists Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, and jazz greats from Cannonball Adderely to David Murray. El'Zabar is also a virtuostic kalimba player, master of Mandingo-style earth drum, balaphonist, flautist and vocalist.

With various third members - saxophonist Light Henry Huff, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre - the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble toured Europe and the States, building an international reputation and mighty musical rapport. In 1988 El'Zabar added trombonist Joseph Bowie, leader of the legendary vanguard jazz-funk ensemble Defunkt, to the Ensemble. Bowie's lean, metallic lines and muscular phrasing made him the perfect third side to this triangle. Out front, Bowie complements Wilkerson's radiant tone and ingenious soloing. Also an accomplished conga player, Bowie masterfully aids El'Zabar in creating the stratified rhythmic layers for which the Ensemble is known. The Ensemble has recorded for a number of European labels - Impressions (Red Records), Three Gentlemen from Chicago (Moers Music), Ancestral Song (Silkheart) and Hang Tuff (Open Minds). Their most recent effort, Dance with the Ancestors (Chameleon Records), is the first on an American label.

In May, 1997 Silkheart Records will release, "21st Century Union March". Delmark Records has recorded the first CD of the New Ethnic Heritage Ensemble on March 1st and 2nd with Ernest Dawkins and Atu Harold Murray on percussion and flutes. Atu was Kahil's instructor for nearly 30 yrs and will also be included in special performances of the group in future tours. Keep an eye on the website for upcoming tour dates in May in California and a fall tour beginning in September. Silkheart Records will produce another recording during that touring period.

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