Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio

With Special Guest Billy Bang

Live at the River East Art Center

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About three-quarters of the way into this spirited CD/DVD set by Chicago's premier deep-soul/jazz combo, band leader Kahil El'Zabar launches into a preacher's monologue: "Life is really really really worth living. Why be here and not really live?" Despite the percussionist's well-intentioned reminder to concertgoers that personal power trumps war-obsessed politics in the long run, his sermon is unnecessary; the music speaks for itself. Along with veteran Coltrane-inspired saxophonist Ari Brown, affably bent violinist Billy Bang (a frequent guest collaborator), and bassist Yosef Ben Israel, El'Zabar delivers on the group's promise introduced two decades back on the albums Another Kind of Grooveand Sacred Love: Peace, love, and solidarity are far from passé concepts. While this Arts Center gig fairly revels in a '60s vibe -- with its ties to trippy visuals (seen clearly in the psychedelic stage backdrop on the DVD) and Mother Africa (El'Zabar's kalimba-led modal jams are in top lyrical-rhythmic form) -- there's nothing obsolete about the uplift Ritual Trio brings. In fact, it's essential.

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