Kahil El'Zabar, Malachi Favors, Billy Bang | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Kahil El'Zabar, Malachi Favors, Billy Bang 

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A reunion of sorts: Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio had its genesis in the mid-80s, pairing the versatlie percussionist with Art Ensemble of Chicago bassist Malachi Favors. Their first recordings were with, alternately, trumpeter Lester Bowie and violinist Billy Bang before they settled down with saxophonist Ari Brown. This performance could well summon up the spare beauty evoked by 1986's Another Kind of Groove (Sound Aspects), recorded with Bang, who's still best known for his lengthy stint in the String Trio of New York but has numerous solo albums to his credit. Bang is traditionally the lead voice in this combination, but El'Zabar is known for redefining the roles (rhythm and melody) of the instruments--not only in the Ritual Trio but also in his other going concern, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. The beautifully hypnotic patterns that have become an earmark, of the Ritual Trio are well suited to Bang's varied solo flights; on the album's affecting "Pedro," Bang's rough violin scrapes convey a backwoodsy ruralism, recalling the rootsy fiddle playing of southern prewar black string bands, while the title track with its propulsive near-swing finds him putting out a wild, Ornette-ish sound splash. If he so desires, Bang can easily tap into other traditions as well, from the gritty swing-era elegance of Stuff Smith to the more obtuse sound jags of Leroy Jenkins. Favors and El'Zabar, meanwhile, map out sensitive rhythmic structures that range from mesmerizing to flat-out driving. Thursday, April 14, 8:30 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Marc PoKempner, Lauren Deutsch.

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