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JAZZ REVIEW | Kabir Dalawari "LAST CALL" by Jeff Cebulski


Last Call

Kabir Dalawari

Shifting Paradigm Records, 2024

By Jeff Cebulski | ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2


If you venture to Chicago drummer Kabir Dalawari’s web page, what you’ll find is a series of testimonies about Dalawari’s teaching skills rather than PR about his playing and recording career. That relative humility is indicative of the musician’s gradual rise within the city’s jazz circles, something that his new album Last Call will help to increase.


Produced by area music veteran Matt Ulury, who played bass on Awareness, Dalawari’s first album, Last Call broadens the drummer’s ensemble from quartet to septet while maintaining Dalawari’s preference for harmonic elements applied to multi-faceted drum patterns and rhythms that reflect African to contemporary American influences.


Whereas people like Makaya McCraven promote similar styles but occasionally amplify the beat and volume, Dalawari plays at a more even keel while demonstrating amazing dexterity and touch—representing a restrained approach as part of the whole, which works well as harmony and melody are layered atop the drummer’s initial patterns as part of his compositional method.


The new album begins with the title cut, a declaration of the artist’s determination to eliminate unnecessary diversions on the path to career maturity. Over a prancing Africanesque cushion from the leader and bassist Stephen Parisi, guitarist Joshua Acheron and pianist Nicholas Olynciw create a harmonic layer leading to the melodic assertion from saxophonists Kyle Brooks and Chris Madsen. Ulury’s production touch is crucial here—each musician has his presence in the sound pastiche, especially Parisi during his accompaniment of Madsen’s lyrical solo.


A Dalawari solo seamlessly bridges “Last Call” to “Detached,” a study in counterpoint as Olynciw’s piano flows beneath Acheron’s more pointed statement atop the leader’s insistent beat with Parisi along for the ride. Later Acheron adds a tasty solid-body solo.


Dalawari’s African lilt is felt more strongly on “For Ma,” lead by Parisi’s dancing bass. After Brooks and Madsen introduce the theme, the ensemble drops to two, a lovely bass/guitar passage where Acheron delivers a masterfully understated solo, joined eventually by Olynciw and Dalawari. Madsen slides in to add another voice while the drummer ratchets up the background. This song is a resounding production achievement for Ulury.


Another multi-textured composition, “Consciousness,” follows, pushing the rhythm forward, then inserting another pensive moment featuring Olynciw, which leads to a blues segment where the pianist reveals his chops. A solid-body expression from Acheron adds yet another harmonic layer to the proceedings. A second Dalawari solo takes the band back to where it began.


“Turbulence” begins in a decidedly non-turbulent manner, like a midwestern storm. The tension ebbs and flows here, with Brooks’ pacific tone answered by Madsen’s more direct tenor, as if the weather was in a debate. In the end, the two ‘sides’ pair up into a climactic finish, with a sedate denouement punctuated by some minimal Fripp-ian picking by Acheron.


In “Imposter Syndrome” Acheron’s placid playing elongates the calm atmosphere, including a nicely rendered solo from Parisi before the guitarist and Brooks join forces.


“Outerlude” seems designed as a shuffle at the end of a set, a bit a of an anti-climax.


Under the masterful production of Matt Ulury, rising percussive artist Kabir Dalawari and his friends have crafted a recording that rewards careful listening. Last Call won’t be the last time we hear from this unassuming but vitally talented musician.


Kabir Dalawari, Last Call. Shifting Paradigm Records, 2024.

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Kabir Dalawari, drums

Kyle Brooks, alto saxophone

Chris Madsen, tenor saxophone

Nicholas Olynciw, piano

Joshua Acheron, guitar

Stephen Parisi, Jr., bass


About Jeff Cebulski

Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Contact Jeff at jeff@chicagojazz.com

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