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Spirit Gatherer • Tribute to Don Cherry

by Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

  • Streaming + Download

    Pre-order of Spirit Gatherer • Tribute to Don Cherry. You get 4 tracks now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album the moment it’s released.
    Purchasable with gift card
    releases April 21, 2023

      £11 GBP


  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    This is the phenomenal new studio recording by spiritual jazz shaman Kahil El'Zabar and his legendary Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, with Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Alex Harding on baritone sax and El’Zabar on multi-percussion. The album is a tribute to the late, great spiritual jazz trumpeter, multi instrumentalist, and composer, Don Cherry and his spiritual path, along with an unwavering conviction towards the betterment of global humanity.

    Featuring legendary LA vocalist Dwight Trible, together with the eldest son of Don Cherry, the internationally renowned musician David Ornette Cherry, the album consists of new compositions by Kahil El’Zabar in tribute to the great incomparable Don Cherry, together with sketches and re-interpreted classics in true Ethnic Heritage Ensemble style

    This is true, spiritual jazz at it's finest, with deep listening, incredible performances by this group of masters, dedicated to one of the greatest jazz figures in its history

    Includes digital pre-order of Spirit Gatherer • Tribute to Don Cherry. You get 4 tracks now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album the moment it’s released.
    ... more
    shipping out on or around April 21, 2023
    Purchasable with gift card

      £37 GBP


Lonely Woman
Sketches of A Love Supreme
Bop On
Holy Man 04:56 video
Well You Needn't
The Opening
Spirit Gatherer


Visionary percussionist and veteran bandleader Kahil El’Zabar leads his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble in celebration of the legendary jazz pioneer Don Cherry and announces new album Spirit Gatherer and previews the first track ‘Don Cherry’. The fifth of a series of Spiritmuse recordings that began with 2019’s Be Known: Ancient/Future Music [Spiritmuse KEZ001], Spirit Gatherer finds the three-person Ethnic Heritage Ensemble joined by two storied guest artists: Dwight Trible, vocalist with the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, and multi-instrumentalist David Ornette Cherry, Don Cherry’s eldest son. Performed by a group of artists who intimately understand the profundity of Don Cherry’s contribution to universal musical and artistic culture, Spirit Gatherer is a powerful, spiritualised tribute to one of the giants of twentieth century music.

Don Cherry was a true original. A pioneer of the jazz avant-garde, he first emerged as part of the Ornette Coleman group. After quickly establishing himself as a key figure in America, he eventually relocated to Europe, where he moved beyond jazz to pursue a universal spirit music. Cherry’s quest was spiritual, musical, social and political – open-hearted and profoundly humane, his life and art were dedicated to beauty and the betterment of all humanity. His music carries a crucial message for today, and Kahil El’Zabar and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble dedicate their new album Spirit Gatherer to him, both to honour his legacy and highlight his ever-growing importance.

‘Don Cherry is the essential, iconic, urban shaman,’ says Kahil El’Zabar. ‘After doing America the Beautiful [Spiritmuse KEZ005] and speaking to the political, social times; and then believing that there has to be resolution, that's why there was A Time for Healing [Spiritmuse KEZ007]. Then after the time for healing, you have to acknowledge the mentors that actually expressed that healing, so that we can figure out better ways to use it. And I couldn't find a better example for now than Don Cherry to amplify that. And so that's why we call him the Spirit Gatherer, which is the name of the album.’

A legendary figure with over fifty years experience in jazz and improvised music (including a decade as the chair of Chicago avant-garde collective the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), El’Zabar brings a powerful heritage and a wealth of experience to his art, directing the songs on Spirit Gatherer with kalimba, voice, or cajon. ‘Don Cherry was griot of the community,’ he says, and this deeply spiritual and shamanic aspect of aspect of Cherry’s practice is echoed in El’Zabar’s own musical journey. ‘The whole key to the story is learn to own your voice. But first, you have to have the grace of history to inform you as you translate it into your individual idea… The was the journey of Don Cherry, and that’s a parallel in terms of my life choices – his model of eclecticism, his model of independence and individuality, his sense of style, his lyrical expressions of being: these were all things that I tried to emulate in my own character.’

For El’Zabar and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Cherry’s message has a particular resonance in our troubled times: ‘Against the atrocities of current day, the way that we saved ourselves is that we all went to our spirit at this time, and the arts were the conduit to the opening of our health, our wellness as human beings. And so we're all feeling a vibe now. It’s not just about the aesthetics of the music – it's about the utility of service that the music brings to you. And that's why Don Cherry is resonating with the current generation, because he was true to that energy.’

A lesser known aspect of El’Zabar’s creative artistry is his widely respected work as a fashion designer, and in this field too, he was inspired by Don Cherry. ‘Don Cherry was a lot more influential in fashion than people realise, because he was a part of the forward underground culture, which always informs the popular culture,’ El’Zabar observes.

As well as several originals by the leader, the songs selected for Spirit Gatherer draw their power from Don Cherry’s legacy, and reach out the spiritualised milieu in which he worked and lived. The music calls forth the sanctified universal folklore of Cherry’s music and refracts it through the firmly rooted Africentric modal grooves now synonymous with El’Zabar’s art. Cherry’s first great collaborator, Ornette Coleman, is represented by his deathless composition ‘Lonely Woman’; in tribute to Cherry’s favourite composer, Thelonious Monk, the band tackle ‘Well You Needn’t’ with a low-key, funked-up read; and Coltrane, with whom Cherry collaborated at various times, is evoked through a musical prayer to A Love Supreme.

As ever, El’Zabar leads the album on multi-percussion, steering the group and setting the pace with his trademark combination of peerless rhythmic invention, melodic subtlety and grounded spiritual direction. Support from regular frontline collaborators Corey Wilkes on trumpet and Alex Harding on baritone sax builds out the sound, with Wilkes channelling the quicksilver improvising brilliance of Cherry himself while Harding embarks on deep-rooted thematic investigations. But Spirit Gatherer is lifted even higher by the presence of two illustrious guests: Dwight Trible and David Ornette Cherry.

Don Cherry’s eldest son, the multi-instrumentalist, educator and composer David Ornette Cherry, has an intimate familial understanding of his father’s musical philosophy. He played with Don from the age of sixteen, and has collaborated with many jazz greats including Billy Higgins, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. His latest album, Organic Nation Listening Club (The Continual), was released on Spiritmuse in 2021, to critical acclaim. On Spirit Gatherer, he adds spiritual warmth and energy on piano and melodica, and invokes the instantly recognisable language of his father’s music when playing douss’n’gouni, the West African hunter’s harp.

Vocalist Dwight Trible is a key figure in Los Angeles renowned community jazz collective, the Pan Afrikan Peoples’ Arkestra. Founded by Horace Tapscott, the Ark has been the seed-bed for three generations of Los Angeles jazz musicians, and it grew out of the same Central Avenue soil that Don Cherry himself was rooted in. Trible, a vocalist who combines both operatic power with deepest blue jazz sensibility, brings electrifying presence and lyrical richness to the session.

In this exalted company the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble’s sonic odyssey goes from strength to strength, opening up new spaces of healing in our present tribulation, new connections to the wisdom of the ancestors, and new vistas onto mended futures. We hope that you enjoy the journey of the Spirit Gatherer.

As on previous Spiritmuse albums from El’Zabar, stunning original album artwork by multi-disciplinary artist Nep Sidhu accompanies the music. The album is presented with archive images of Don Cherry, courtesy of the Cherry Archive, Estate of Moki Cherry.


releases April 21, 2023

All Compositions, Arrangements and Original Music by Kahil El’Zabar (except * - see full credits below)

Design and Art Direction by Nep Sidhu

All Don Cherry images courtesy of the Cherry Archive, Estate of Moki Cherry

Recorded in CoLabyrinth, Chicago in February 2022
Recording Engineers: Lee Farmer and Imran Shabazz
Mix Engineer: Lee Farmer
Mastering by: Frank Merritt at The Carvery, London

Spiritmuse Records
Music for the Spirit


1. Don Cherry, composed by Kahil El’Zabar
2. Lonely Woman, composed by Ornette Coleman *
3. Evocation, composed by Kahil El’Zabar
4. Degi-Degi, composed by Don Cherry *
5. Sketches of a Love Supreme, based on the original composition by John Coltrane *
6. Bop On, composed by Kahil El’Zabar
7. Holy Man, composed by Kahil El’Zabar
8. Well You Needn't, composed by Thelonious Monk *
9. The Opening, composed by Kahil El’Zabar
10. Harvest Time, composed by Pharoah Sanders *
11. Spirit Gatherer, composed by Kahil El’Zabar

Kahil El’Zabar – multi-percussion / balafon / kalimba / voice
Corey Wilkes – trumpet/ spirit bowls/ percussion
Alex Harding – baritone sax
Dwight Trible – voice
David Ornette Cherry – piano / melodica / douss’n gouni

Except Tracks 3, 8 & 9, with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble only
Kahil El’Zabar – multi-percussion / balafon / kalimba / voice
Corey Wilkes – trumpet/ spirit bowls/ percussion
Alex Harding – baritone sax


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Ethnic Heritage Ensemble Chicago, Illinois

Celebrating an extraordinary 46 yrs in music, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble led by legendary Chicago percussionist, vocalist & composer Kahil El’Zabar are tighter than ever. El’Zabar is widely acknowledged as one of the leaders of spiritual & afrofuturistic jazz, collaborating w/ heavyweights incl. Pharoah Sanders, Nina Simone, Archie Shepp, Lester Bowie, Billy Bang, Hamiet Bluiett & David Murray. ... more

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