Ethnic Heritage Ensemble Hot ‘N' Heavy: Live at the Ascension Loft

Kahil El’Zabar has been a mainstay on the Chicago jazz scene for three decades and with this new incarnation of his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, he shows no signs of slowing down. Captured on video before a small, enthusiastic audience, Hot ‘N’ Heavy is an excellent document of the deeply-felt cultural expression that emanates from musicians who value their community as much as their axes. Saxist Ernest "Kabeer” Dawkins brings a gritty, street-smart edge to the music, getting hot and heavy on the tune of the same name. Fareed Haque, on both electric and classical guitars, contributes grooving ostinatos while his partners solo then kicks into overdrive when his turn comes. Newcomer Corey Wilkes (trumpet) plays with relaxed ease and calm, dignified confidence, making beautiful statements on E’Zabar originals "Major to Minor” and "There is a Place,” which finds the leader giving voice to an emotional call for peace. El’Zabar’s playing of hand drums, electric kamilba and drums is the model of musicality, thoughtfully rhythmic but inventively multi-directional. This is a solid package of artistry from the Chicago Loop. (Delmark)