At a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America on Wednesday June 19, 2002, Kahil El'Zabar was presented with the Percussionist of the Year" award by the Jazz Journalist Association. The results were based on votes cast by the 400 member J.J.A. international membership.
For more information on the JJA Awards, please go to the websites: www.jazzhouse.org or www.JazzJournalistsAwards.com.
Kahil El'Zabar's new album, Love Outside Of Dreams, (Delmark 541) featuring saxophonist David Murray and trompbonist Fred Hopkins, will be released August 27, 2002 on Delmark Records.
Internationally renowned percussionist and composer, Kahil El'Zabar is considered one of the most prolific Jazz innovators of his generation. This world class musician grew up in Chicago's south side where he heard music in the streets everyday-doo-wop, bebop, gospel, and of course, great blues bands. Even though he is fully grounded in the history and music of his African American community, he has taken his studies deeper, ingeniously incorporating African music and instrumentation, producing a unique and wonderfully engaging sound. He credits his community with providing some direction towards African sensibility. I grew up in a period when African Americans, as a large body, finally started addressing our roots. With African drums there was such an appeal in the way of playing with the hands and the sense of the entire body being involved in the playing of the instrument."
El'Zabar's passionate love for music, other art forms and philosophy motivated him to pursue a thorough and diverse education. His formal training is highlighted with studies in Ghana, West Africa: the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music) School of Music; and the Sun Drummer Institute. He acknowledges philosopher and master drummer Harold Atu Murray as his most significant mentor.
El'Zabar is an accomplished musician with mastery of a variety of instruments to his credit from the elementary-congas, bongos, African drums, shekere, gongs, and trap drums-to the esoteric-balaphon, marimba, sanza, kalimba, balaphon, and berimbau. With such extensive knowledge, it is no wonder that he has performed and recorded world-wide luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Donny Hathaway, David Murray, Stevie Wonder, Henry Threadgill, and Paul Simon, to name a few. El'Zabar is also a highly respected composer, bandleader, and recording artist with two aggregations-the 20 year old Ethnic Heritage Ensemble featuring trombonist/percussionist Joseph Bowie and multi-reediest Ernest Dawkins; and the Ritual Trio, featuring bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut and saxophonist Ari Brown. In 1991, El'Zabar was commissioned by Germany's Leverkusen Jazz Festival to present a 20 year retrospective of his work, which showcased Orchestra Infinity-a 25 piece big band formed several years ago.
In addition to his musical pursuits, El'Zabar is also an author as evidenced by Mis'Taken Brilliance, a book of prose and poetry published in 1993 by Third World Press. His talents have also extended to the cinematic arena scoring feature films such as Love Jones" (New Line Cinema), Mo' Money" (Columbia Pictures), and How U Like Me Now" (Universal Pictures)-costarring in the feature film Savannah" and starring in tow independent films-"So Low But Not Alone," and The Last Set." As a community servant, El'Zabar has held posts at both the University of Nebraska and the University of Illinois, and currently serves on several prestigious boards including the National Task Force of Arts Presenting in Education, campaign for Freedom of Expression, Forum for the Evaluation of Progressive Arts, Chicago Blues Museum and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. He has also served as a panelist fro the NEA's Commissioning and Interdisciplinary Programs and was recently selected Artist of the Year'" by the Chicago Tribune.
Indeed El'Zabar is a true Renaissance Man," with a musical style and content that flows from ancient Africa to the modern world. In his own words, The spirit of one's approach comes first before the technical. All the facility in the world with nothing that comes from the heart doesn't make good music. the basis of the strength of any artistic evolution has come from ethnicity.