Kahil El Zabar's Ritual Trio Featuring Billy Bang Big M: A Tribute to Malachi Favors

The new chapter of the Ritual Trio began in December 2004. Percussionist and drummer El Zabar had worked with bassist Malachi "Big M” Favors — best known for his tenure with the Art Ensemble of Chicago — for 36 years when the latter "made his transition” that year. The first work of the new trio, Live At The River East Art Center, was released last year on CD and DVD, and showcased a mellow session chock full of low and lazy funk with stratospheric solos from saxophonist Ari Brown and special guest Billy Bang. Bang and his no wave, alt-alt-country-ish violin are back on hand for a studio session recorded two days after the loft party. Generally speaking, this session resulted in faster paced takes on similar material. The tempos seem much quicker; even the more ballad oriented pieces seem to unfold more rapidly, with ten-minute songs feeling compact. Bang is a very special guest indeed, sawing and yowling through the deep swing of "Kau” matching Brown’s intensity stride for stride. Bang’s "Freedom Flexibility” offers a torrid yet bumpy hand drum groove that shakes the very soul. The title song features El Zabar’s magical kalimba playing, in a song of celebration raised up even higher by Brown’s searing solo. New bassist Yosef Ben Israel lays all the way back in this one, a true heir to Favors’ less is more approach to the Ritual Trio. This is a very fine album, and would be a major statement were if not for the previously released live set as a point of comparison. (Delmark)