Conversations album cover

Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio , Archie Shepp

Delmark Records

Percussionist Kahil El’Zabar, who plays a wide range of African instruments, switches back and forth between a jazz kit and various hand drums on this album, which is dedicated to the then-recently deceased bassist Fred Hopkins. El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio, first formed in the 1970s, includes saxophonist Ari Brown and bassist Malachi Favors; they’re joined here by saxophonist Archie Shepp, whose gruff but big-hearted free jazz style is steeped in the blues. Much of the music here simmers rather than rages, with whoever’s not playing sax switching over to piano, and there’s some gruff-voiced singing as well, giving it the feeling of four old friends commiserating over the passing of a fifth.

Phil Freeman

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