Listen to Kahil El’Zabar’s glorious tribute to Don Cherry


Okay we’re over a month or so late, but the latest album from US spiritual jazz shaman Kahil El’Zabar is a tribute to one of the most forward thinking musicians of all time, Don Cherry. Between his work with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, his world music ensemble Codona, solo albums, soundtracks and everything in between, Cherry left behind an openness to possibility, using music as a positive healing and spiritual force.

El’Zabar is joined by his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, with Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Alex Harding on baritone sax and El’Zabar on multi-percussion, as well as LA vocalist Dwight Trible and Cherry’s, oldest son David Ornette Cherry. They play El’Zabar originals alongside some reworked pieces from the likes of Cherry himself, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk and Pharoah Sanders. It’s a beautifully sparse affair, where each gesture is imbued with so much meaning. It’s deeply soulful, and a little raw, but you can feel the passion just emanating off the musicians – something that’s pretty consistent with both Cherry and El’Zabar. We first heard El’Zabar via his 2020 Spirit Groove album and we’ve been entranced by the depth of feeling within his music, ever since. You can read our review here.

‘The Opening’ is a particularly late night work, with its weary cadence, mournful trumpet, sparsely plucked kalimba and El’Zabar periodically declaring ‘there’s an opening.’ It’s beautiful to know that music can be made like this.

This is what El’Zabar has to say about it:

“Don Cherry is the essential, iconic, urban shaman. After doing America the Beautiful and speaking to the political, social times; and then believing that there has to be resolution, that’s why there was A Time for Healing. Then after the time for healing, you have to acknowledge the mentors that actually expressed that healing, so that we can figure out better ways to use it. And I couldn’t find a better example for now than Don Cherry to amplify that. And so that’s why we call him the Spirit Gatherer, which is the name of the album.”

Spirit Gatherer is out now via Spiritmuse records. You can find it here.


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.