Kahil El’Zabar’s ‘America the Beautiful’, released this week on Spiritmuse Records, a tour de force spiritual jazz statement that speaks directly to the heart, mind and spirit. Kahil El’Zabar composed, arranged & conducted ‘America the Beautiful’ to speak about the turbulent issues in America and the world today, as well as his hopes and love for a better tomorrow.

Considered one of the true creative innovators, El’Zabar is a pioneer of spiritual jazz and Afrocentric groove, as well as a legendary multi-percussionist, composer and educator. He was mentored in his early youth by two of Chicago’s luminary founders of the legendary AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), Phil Cohran and Muhal Richard Abrams, and eventually became Chairman of the AACM after Muhal from 1975-83. El’Zabar’s comparable skills and masterful versatility have afforded him the opportunities to work and collaborate with giants such as Lester Bowie, Pharoah Sanders, Malachi Favors, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Harris, Archie Shepp, Billy Bang, David Murray, Cannonball Adderley, Nina Simone, Nona Hendryx and Hamiet Bluiett, to name a few.

‘America the Beautiful’ is the last recorded performance of the late, great Hamiet Bluiett, to whom this album is dedicated. Following his latest release “Spirit Groove” ft. David Murray, El’Zabar went into his musical vault to uncover for Spiritmuse Records works that he had scored for Daryl Roberts’s award-winning documentary, America the Beautiful III. Kahil decided that the timing was right to release this music, in light of the tragic outbreak of COVID-19 and the global heartfelt tragedy of George Floyd’s brutal unconstitutional death. El’Zabar then went back into the studio recently to compose and score the rest of the music that would accompany the vision of what America the Beautiful has become.

This incredible album features Kahil El’Zabar with an extended ensemble of woodwinds, brass, strings and an array of Afro-percussion, showcasing such master players as Corey Wilkes, Tomeka Reid, James Sanders, Josh Ramos, Miguel de la Cerna, Ernie Adams and Hamiet Bluiett. El’Zabar developed the initial inspiration for this project from his musical origins in the above mentioned documentary, and later added new works that would explore issues related to current affairs and past histories of America and the globe, regarding race, ecology, economic disparity, and his hopes, aspirations and love for a better world yet to come.

The albums theme is a unique reworking of the anthemic “America the Beautiful” into a multi layered cacophony of altered harmonies and contrapuntal rhythms that speak to the bittersweet ironies of American society. The other familiar classics in this project, “Express Yourself”, “How can you mend a Broken Heart” and Afro Blue, have all been reworked with original arrangements written and conducted by El’Zabar to engage the listener in an audible landscape of thoughts and emotion that transverse the greater meaning of living in these times. El’Zabar also adds new compositions in the mix such as “Freedom March”, “Jump and Shout (For Those Now Gone”) and “As we Pray to our Creator”, further exploring the adventure of melody to dissonance within the romance and passion of creative improvised music making.

The compositions and new arrangements speak to the times that we are living in today, in the wake of a worldwide pandemic, despotic leadership, mass social discontent, disproportionate poverty, Black Lives Matter and other disenfranchised peoples’ movements and the ecological and economic disparity of our planet. It is time to express ourselves with compassionate art that will hopefully propel better and clearer thoughts about where we are now and where we are going in the future.

As we reflect on this moment in history to consider how each of us can make a difference, Kahil El’Zabar’s “America the Beautiful” killer spiritual jazz speaks to the hope, urgency and love that much needed by the world today.


Kahil El’Zabar’s ‘America the Beautiful’ is an “incredible jazz score no less from one of the most active and transformative artists in the field, a true acolyte of the scene’s most celebrated, progressive greats, Kahil carries the torch for a more healing engagement with the causes, activism he holds dear. There’s no mistaking where he’s coming from, with an album that has never been more vital and enriching to a culture and creative form under pressure and fire to react to the changes taking place.” Dominic Valvona, Monolith Cocktail

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