Kahil El’Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

Spirit Gatherer: Tribute To Don Cherry

Spiritmuse • 2023

It’s the end of 2022: Percussionist and composer Kahil El’Zabar, who has been playing jazz for more than five decades but has only received the recognition he deserves in recent years, is on tour with his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. Members of the entourage: Dwight Trible, spiritual centre of the Los Angeles collective Pan-African Peoples Arkestra, and David Ornette Cherry. Cherry is not only a multi-instrumentalist and music teacher, but also the son of jazz revolutionary Don Cherry, who died in 1995. People come together for ritual gatherings that uphold the legacy of Don Cherry: The gigs turn into an invocation of the spirits. 

At the Barbican in London, people were still applauding – or so it felt – when David Ornette (named after Ornette Coleman, of course) Cherry collapsed and died of an asthma attack. Five days later, the band was back on stage in Cologne, and the scales fell from their eyes: The material we hear on this record has always been a tribute and bold funeral march. The subdued minor chords that Corey Wilkes elicits from the trumpet on »Evocation« as Alex Harding improvises over the chorus on baritone saxophone; the mantra-like verses of Trible and El’Zabar; the spirit of the Cherry family – all conceived, written and played with deep sorrow and the utmost intimacy.