FringeArts and Ars Nova Workshop welcomes the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble to Philadelphia in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the legendary cult film Love Jones, in which El’Zabar and Avery both appeared.
Kahil El’Zabar led the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble’s first performance at Child City Arts Center in Chicago in 1973, one year after he had returned from his studies at the University of Ghana. His goal was to combine concepts of African American music making with the earlier roots of traditional African music to produce something new. 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.”
After 40 years, this legendary band is still serving the people worldwide with their special brand of 21st century Griot music. The trio’s latest incarnation features the remarkable trumpeter Corey Wilkes, a member of the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago who has also worked with a wide range of artists including Wynton Marsalis, Clark Terry and Kurt Elling; and versatile saxophonist Teodross Avery, who has performed with everyone from Roy Ayers to Betty Carter to Mos Def, written music for Amy Winehouse and toured with Matchbox Twenty. Together, the trio’s “harmonically provocative and rhythmically seductive” (Chicago Tribune) performances impart an ancestral wisdom that conjures an energy rarely encountered in contemporary music.
El’Zabar is one of Chicago’s jazz treasures. A member of the AACM, El’Zabar has performed alongside numerous jazz greats and was a member of the bands of Stevie Wonder, Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie and Nina Simone.
Corey Wilkes, trumpet
Teodross Avery, tenor saxophone
Kahil El’Zabar, percussion
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