Album of the Week // 26–30 October
Kahil El’Zabar — America The Beautiful [Spiritmuse]
A Message From Kahil El’Zabar:
America the Beautiful in all of its bitter/sweet realities, brings us to ponder what is really coming next?
Through the benevolence of a divine intervention, the entire human race has been given time to think and go deeper into self for a higher purpose beyond the current social horrors and pandemic crisis. Now’s the time for us all to collectively invoke a confluence of trust and imagination that will enlighten a future path towards ethical humanity.
My prayer, is that this music I share with you now, has relevance, meaning, purpose, and that it touches your heart, mind, and soul. Saint John Coltrane told us years ago that it was time for ‘A Love Supreme’. I know deep in my heart that there are many who love and care most deeply. We all have to do more right now to make a difference. Action speaks louder than words! There is far, far too much bigotry, hate, violence, and injustice in the world today. We have to change immoral practices and policies that spawn and stir systemic racism across our planet.
Life today, like music, is all about improvising the cacophonies of multitudes into trusting co-dependent harmonies, that then transform disproportionate ugliness into the redeemed beauty of our future.
Spiritual jazz so to speak, is the universal language that empowers love and imagination to all. It represents the best of what America the Beautiful could become beyond its historical enslavement of black, brown, and other Peoples, as well as the horrific ecological and economic misuses of our planet. Through the music, the arts and sciences we are still blessed with an opportunity to reinvent, reinterpret, and innovate new possibilities for positive, humane, creative living!
We have all been taught to view or envision the world through an acculturated lens. The big question is, can we create now our own vision of what we would hope the world to be? If we the people were to inherit the governance of our communities, what would we want them to feel and look like? Love through higher understanding is the road to an evolved consciousness. Wrongs done towards people of colour for centuries past and present, must be dealt with now in order to make things right for the future.
I wish everyone brilliant dreams, profound aspirations and exquisite affirmations. This is truly the way to inspire America the Beautiful to move beyond hypocrisy and false truths, into a trusted collaborative of humble contributors, who share equally in the making of a bright Global future!
Spiritmuse Records proudly presents Kahil El’Zabar’s America the Beautiful, a tour de force musical testament that speaks directly to the heart, mind and spirit. Sir Kahil El’Zabar (knighted by France in 2014 as Chevalier of Letters), composed, arranged and conducted America the Beautiful to speak musically about the turbulent issues in America and the world today, as well as his hopes and love for a better tomorrow.
Considered one of the true creative innovators of his generation, maestro El’Zabar is a formidable pioneer of spiritual jazz and Afrocentric jazz. Dr. El’Zabar (he also holds a PhD in inter-disciplinary arts) is a master multi-percussionist, composer and educator. He was mentored in his early youth by two of Chicago’s luminary founders of the legendary AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), Phil Cohran and Muhal Richard Abrams, eventually elected to be Chairman of the AACM after Muhal from 1975–83. El’Zabar’s comparable skills and masterful versatility have a afforded him opportunities to work and collaborate with giants such as Lester Bowie, Pharoah Sanders, Malachi Favors, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Harris, Archie Shepp, Billy Bang, David Murray, Cannonball Adderley, Nina Simone, Nona Hendryx and Hamiet Bluiett, to name a few. In fact, America the Beautiful is the last recorded performance of the late, great Hamiet Bluiett, to whom this album is dedicated.
Following his latest release ‘Spirit Groove’ ft. David Murray, El’Zabar went into his musical vault to uncover works that he had scored for Daryl Roberts’ award-winning documentary, America the Beautiful. Kahil decided that the timing was right to release this music, in light of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the tragedy of George Floyd’s brutal death. El’Zabar went back into the studio to compose and score the rest of the music that would accompany the vision of what America the Beautiful has become.
The album features Kahil El’Zabar with an extended ensemble of woodwinds, brass, strings and an array of Afro-percussion, showcasing master players such as Corey Wilkes, Tomeka Reid, James Sanders, Josh Ramos, Miguel de la Cerna, Ernie Adams and Hamiet Bluiett.
The albums theme is a unique reworking of the anthemic ‘America the Beautiful’ into a multi layered cacophony of altered harmonies and contrapuntal rhythms that speak to the bittersweet ironies of American society. The other familiar classics in this project, ‘Express Yourself’, ‘How can you mend a Broken Heart’ and Afro Blue, have all been reworked with original arrangements written and conducted by El’Zabar to engage the listener in an audible landscape of thoughts and emotion that transverse the greater meaning of living in these times. El’Zabar also adds new compositions in the mix such as ‘Freedom March’, ‘Jump and Shout (For Those Now Gone)’ and ‘As we Pray to our Creator’, further exploring the adventure of melody to dissonance within the romance and passion of creative improvised music making.
The compositions and new arrangements speak to the times that we are living in today, in the wake of a worldwide pandemic, despotic leadership, mass social discontent, disproportionate poverty, Black Lives Matter and other disenfranchised peoples’ movements. It is time to express ourselves with compassionate art that will hopefully propel better and clearer thoughts about where we are now and where we are going in the future. As we reflect on this moment in history and consider how each of us can make a difference, Kahil El’Zabar’s America the Beautiful speaks to the urgency and hope needed with spiritual music.
Hear tracks from the album every morning this week on Morning Mari*, 8:45–9:00 BST.