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Abdul Zahir Batin & The Notorious Ensemble : «Live at the Jazz Cultural Theatre» (A tribute to a poor artist)

Abdul Zahir-Batin is a jazz drummer who recorded this album with his Notorious Jazz Ensemble, and was never heard from again. Abdul used to hang out in front of various jazz clubs and other places in Greenwich Village in New York City selling his CD. There my friend Elias met him  and bought it. I was surprised when I first listened to it. There was a lot of good music in there. And amazing musicians. It is very sad for a so talented artist to survive this way.

  1. Libre Ahora (I) (Kiane Zawadi, BMI-Abdul Zahir ASCAP) 5:59
  2. Mind Wine (John Hicks, BMI) 5:38
  3. Grand Ummi (Abdul Zahir Batin, ASCAP) 7:48
  4. Classic Medley (AbdulZahirBatm,ASCAP) 4:13
  5. Libre Ahora (II) (Kiane Zawadi, BMI-Abdul Zahir Batin, ASCAP) 10:27
  6. 369 In The Dunya (Abdul Zahir Batin, ASCAP) 7:40

 

Abdul Zahir Batin -drums                           Robin Eubanks-trombone

Bobby Watson  – alto sax                             John Hicks – piano

Cecil Bridgewater– trumpet                          Curtis Lundy– bass

Recorded February 2,1986, NYC

Recorded by Kazamori Sugiyama

Executive Producer: Tom Lord

Produced for Cadence Jazz Records by Bob Rusch

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Abdul Zahir Batin was born Michael Shepherd In Baltimore, MD, 1944. Since the mid-‘60s and after spending a year (1965) as part of t Sun Ra Arkestra and commune, Zahir has led a number of bands through which the likes of Benny Bailey, slide Hampton, Wynton Marsalls, Richard Williams, Klane Zawadi, Hugh Lawson, Rlchard Wyands, Ricky Ford and numerous others established or emerging creative, Improvising musicians have passed. Before this session Zahir had recorded with Archie Shepp (1975) and Sunny Murray (1978) worked with a number of other leaders including Jaki Byard, Howard McGhee, Frank Foster, and studied with Sam Rivers (composition) Morris Goldberg, and Phllly Joe Jones.

This recording Is a moment In time; this edition of the Notorious Ensemble was together for less than half a year. In fact Rot Eubanks was a late addition, replacing Steve Turre who had originally been doing the rehearsals for this session.

Since this recording, Zahir has continued to develop his own particular existence on the fringe and In the shadows of the New York area music scene, self-confident and persistent In his belief that the power of his artistic efforts alone will take precedence over all else. He has developed a legendary status for both his elusiveness and his ability to appear at unlikely times to state his case to an unwary b possible convert.

The continuing saga of Abdul Zahir Batin is still being written. In 1986 this recording gave us the most complete musical look at Zahli world.     Unfortunately It remains that     Hopefully  before the next  millennium circumstances will again conspire to  give  us  another moment In time and another look at Zahir out of the shadows.

Bob Rusch

From the CDs booklet

How the mighty fall

A great player out selling tapes on the freezing streets of New York? It’s an all too familiar tale
By John L Walters
Republication from «The Guardian»

 

I found myself thinking about Jaco Pastorius after my encounter with Abdul on the streets of New York. It was 12.30am and a friend and I were standing in line in the rain outside a tiny club called Smalls. Abdul Zahir Batin was working the queue of regulars, tourists and college kids, a welcome diversion on a cold wet night. He put a Walkman headset on the student in front of me and pressed the play button. «Sounds good,» bellowed the college kid. «Is that you?» he added, pointing to the cover picture of the 1980s jazz album that Batin was clutching in a transparent plastic sleeve: «You look much younger.»

Batin, a drummer and bandleader who has played with Sun Ra and Archie Shepp, was selling hand-labelled cassettes for $20. I listened: a ragged ensemble over a tasty funk/bop groove. «That’s Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet…Curtis Lundy on bass,» said Abdul. I told him I had met Curtis in London. «Yeah, he was playing there with his sister, Carmen,» he said. The instant rapport of street traders. I had to buy a tape. «I’ll give it you for $15,» said Abdul. «But I can’t break a 20.» I handed over a $20 note and he repeated his pitch for the guys in the line behind me.

Before long we were in the club, listening to the rich and complex charts of Jason Lindner’s reduced-size big band: three saxes, four brass and rhythm section. The place was jammed right back to the door – one girl had to squeeze right behind Lindner’s grand piano. The band was great, stretching two numbers out to a full set. They made an album a few years ago, and you can also hear the leader – who’s only in his late 20s – on five tracks of the new album, Rhythm of Life (Verve), by Chilean singer Claudia Acuna.

Volver a los Diescisiete boasts a Lindner arrangement, and the Richard Rogers standard My Romance opens with the same chattering, damped piano sound he used to kick off the second piece at the club. And their version of Nature Boy certainly beats the one in Moulin Rouge.

Mitchell Borden, who runs Smalls, told me that Lindner’s band has been resident most Mondays for the past seven years, and are getting better all the time. Borden, a wiry, unsmiling guy in a little hat, sat in the freezing lobby, taking $10 per customer. Another band got ready to play at 2.30am; after that there would be a jam session until eight in the morning. Smalls is open seven nights a week. «When do you sleep?» asked a passing tourist. Abdul Zahir Batin sat on the cold steps, rolling a cigarette. He’s a survivor. His tape’s not bad.

But I found myself thinking about Jaco Pastorius because there was a time, nearly 20 years ago, when the bassist was himself playing tiny clubs, hustling strangers and annoying friends on the streets of New York – part of the rapid mental deterioration that ended with his awful death in 1987. And now his second solo album, Word of Mouth (Warner Jazz, from 1981), has just been re-released. It’s part of a slew of revived Warner Bros Masters that includes Just Family by Dee Dee Bridgewater and albums by Yusef Lateef and Donald Byrd. But the Pastorius album stands out: few world/new music/ jazz records have the all-encompassing ambition of Word of Mouth, and even fewer live up to it.

It’s a «widescreen» album that includes expert group improvisation, gorgeous and original orchestral scoring, ensemble playing of the highest order, and sneaky, funky grooves, all built around Jaco’s own freakish – but entirely musical – virtuosity and invention on the fretless bass guitar. He was at the summit of a pyramid structure of talented, hardworking musicians like the guys playing for next to nothing at Smalls that night, yet he was something else. Like all the jazz greats, Jaco changed the way people play and hear the music and the instrument. But that didn’t help him when he was out there in the cold and the rain.

 

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