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The Power of the Remix

Veteran percussionist, singer and composer Kahil El'Zabar flirts with DJ culture on a new collection.
Veteran percussionist, singer and composer Kahil El'Zabar flirts with DJ culture on a new collection.

In the right hands, remixes have tremendous power: Producers can transform mediocrities into masterpieces, and they can recontextualize music outside its original genre, in the process attracting new and unexpected audiences. Veteran percussionist, singer and composer Kahil El'Zabar has always flirted with DJ culture, often yielding sub-par results, but on his Deeper Soul Remix Project, he strikes gold by marshaling a remarkable assortment of DJs.

Djinji Brown approaches El'Zabar's "Running in the Streets" with a light touch, which makes sense: The original holds together just fine on its own. The son of legendary free-jazz saxophonist Marion Brown, Djinji Brown conveys an understanding of El'Zabar's cultural incubator, the Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians, which encourages forward-thinking artistic pursuits grounded in ancient principles.

Brown converts Afro-centric free-jazz into sublime Afro-futuristic soul by underscoring El'Zabar's motherland pulse and world-weary vocals with subtle hip-hop beats, then embellishing Fareed Haque's eerie guitar riffs, Ernest Dawkins' plaintive saxophone cries and Joseph Bowie's growling trombone with intergalactic sound effects. Had it not been so inventively reworked, El'Zabar's poignant mediation on urban strife might have fallen on deaf ears, but it gets a richly deserved new life on this splendid remix.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.