To say that Kahil El'Zabar is a percussionist is like saying Ludwig Van Beethoven was a songwriter. While both statements can be considered technically true, both are spectacular in their understatement of what each man truly accomplished, and in El'Zabar's case, still accomplishing. Since this is a review of a piece by Mr.El'Zabar I'll leave enumerating Beethoven's achievements for another time and focus on the percussionist instead.
If I were to even just enumerate the number of projects that Kahil El'Zabar has founded and continues to involve himself in to this day, I would never get to the review at hand. But his Infinity Orchestra, whose latest disc Transmigration I'm reviewing, is only one limb of what he refers to as the Tree Of Life on his web site.
This Tree shows exactly how many different projects he has on the go, and where possible, lists the participants. The smaller bands, which some of you may be familiar with like, The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble or Ritual Tribe, are peopled by some of the greats of the Jazz Avant Garde: Joseph Bowie, Archie Sheep, Pharaoh Sanders, and Henry Huff to name only a few. But no matter who he plays with, Kahil El'Zabar's presence is going to be felt.
It's more than just his abilities as a musician, composer, arranger that make him so important to Jazz, it's also his commitment to the music and the part he seems himself playing within it.
I think the social relationship of this art, and how it helped to transform and inspire people from decade to decade, goes without the recognition it deserves…At this point in my life I'm part of that legacy from Louis Armstrong to Anthony Braxton and the Chicago Art Ensemble
This is a man who walks his talk whether at home in Chicago or abroad in the Aquitaine region of France's capital city Bordeaux where the majority of the musicians of the Infinity Orchestra are based. Since the year 2000 he has been the artist in residence at the academy of music for two months of every year and founded the orchestra he conducts on the Delmark records release Transmigration