Ethnic Heritage Ensemble Hot And Heavy

Kahil El Zabar is releasing CDs like they’re going out of style, perhaps because they are indeed going out of style. The brilliant percussionist from Chicago was not exactly over-recorded until about five years ago when his many creative pursuits started to get documented. This edition of the long-running Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is fronted now by veteran reedman Ernest Dawkins and young gun on trumpet Corey Wilkes. The surprising special guest on this disc is guitarist Fareed Haque, who’s best known for his classical, rather than jazz, playing. This CD was recorded in a live loft setting. As with most of El Zabar’s work, the songs are lengthy, with straightforward heads giving way to spirited solos and hypnotic hand drummed, or kalimba-driven, grooves. The core trio are in fine shape, with Dawkins igniting the entire band when it’s his turn and Wilkes bringing fearsome technique and swing to his contributions — his dual trumpet solo on the title track is a disc highlight. The only disappointment is Haque, who sounds like he’s just sitting in, trying to play the changes as he hears them. His harmonic contributions are frequently valuable but he simply isn’t tight with the material or with the pacing of his solos. He sounds as if he’s too wrapped up in his head and doesn’t reinforce the rhythm when the songs demand it. Despite these criticisms, Hot And Heavy more than succeeds. (Delmark)) (Delmark)