|Since the year 2000, Kahil El'Zabar has returned annually to Bordeaux, France, where he teaches at the Academy of Music and leads his 39-piece French orchestra, the Infinity Orchestra.
Recorded live in Bordeaux, the sheer enthusiasm of the orchestra and audience comes right at you. For instance, "Soul to Groove" with its propulsive mix of djembe and rubbery turntable beats not only combines the urbane worlds of jazz with hip-hop and the folkloric forms of Africa, Europe, the West Indies, and the United States, it ultimately projects a fluent pan-African dialect of the spirit. Arnaud Rouanet's hollering, inside-outside tenor solo is a standout response to this percolating percussion piece which concludes with spare dissonant sweeps from the entire orchestra.
The long one-chord vamp of "Speaking In Tongues" opens with a lovely balofon improvisation by El'Zabar (who elsewhere limits himself to conducting duties). Then voices in soaring counterlines set the stage for a 'Mr T'-styled solo from the Latvian tenor saxophonist, Karlis Vanag; then a series of blues glides from trumpeter Piero Pepin; and a rawly stated, fine debut solo from the young 15-year old classical clarinetist, Jean Dousteyssier, continually impresses. Altogether, these solos present a rich multiplicity of styles and 'feels'.
Impressive French rap animates the "Nu Art Claiming Earth" suite, and after Bindi Mahamat reaches out in political solidarity and speaks engagingly about "même problèmes", a jazz kit solo and swift turntable scratches eventually morph into a full-blown creative Babel wherein all dialects and all languages are speaking freely at the same time.
The concert's finale is appropriately titled, "Return of The Lost Tribe". The guest African American soloists Ernest 'Khabeer' Dawkins and Joseph Bowie perform at full throttle. Dawkins' alto is at first all multiphonics and hard blues saying and trombonist Bowie's fast tailgating and hearty vocalizations effectively slash across the orchestra's 1-2 punctuations. When a harmonious theme statement develops, and Dawkins steps back in, playing grainy spiraling riffs and upward choked tones amidst the squeezed ecstasy of the orchestra and its weeping turntables, El'Zabar is found intoning, "Keep the spirit in the music ... keep the community in the music", and the orchestra does a mass rewind on the courageous theme. Onwards.
by David Fujino February 2008
Illyes Ferfera alto sax | Grat Martinez baritone sax | Arnaud Rouanet tenor sax
Marc Closier tenor sax | Karlis Vanags tenor sax | Noris Kolmanis sax | Benoit Berthe sax
Fabien Deyts trumpet | Yann Grillon trumpet | Piero Pepin trumpet
Vincent Faugere trumpet | Dominique Darrouzet trumpet
Jean Dousteyssier clarinet | Christian Patzer flute
Jérémi Ortal trombone | Guillaume Ballin trombone | Guillaume Pique trombone
Clément Billardello guitar | Xavier Corpice guitar
Nathalie Gaucher vocal | Taro Ochiai vocal | Bindi Mahamat vocal rap
Rémi Bernis vocal rap | Stéphane Castanet DJ
Nicolas Perrin DJ Turntablist | Olivier Soubles piano
Marianne Thiebaut djembe | Boudji Abasse djembe | Manue Peran djembe
Jonathan Verbaere djembe | Yacouba Silla djembe, balofon
Yvain Chambard balofon, percussion | Pascale Martinez percussion | Estelle Renauld percussion
Hervee Mignon electric bass | Xavier Hayet acoustic bass
Philippe Gaubert drums | Antonin Mallaret drums | Yoann Scheidt drums
Kahil El'Zabar leader, percussion
Ernest Dawkins alto saxophone, percussion
Joseph Bowie trombone, percussion
Arrangements by Robert Irving III and Kahil El'Zabar