Kahlil Kwame Bell & The GIFT
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Kahlil Kwame Bell & The GIFT

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"Live at Sweet Rhythm in New York Kahlil Kwame Bell AND THE GIFT"

I thought after listening to Kahlil Kwame Bell’s
earlier recordings, he was going to run out of ideas
for a third release. I was wrong. He shocked me
again! I asked him about this live recording and his
reason for putting it out. He said, “ I needed to
document the experience of what my band does in a
venue. In a recording studio, I plan everything, so
to the listener it sounds very well thought out. This
release is about the individual band members that I
have been blessed to work with for over seven years
now. Each musician told his or her own story through
strong improvised solos within a structured piece of
musical art.” What about your work on the slappaphone
instrument? It sounds like you opened up more than
usual. “ Actually, because this is a live recording,
many people are curious to hear how I lead a band
using an unpopular percussion instrument like the
slappaphone. So my presence on it needed to be
established strongly through improvisation.” What
made you choose these songs? “ Since this is a two
disc set, I wanted four songs from the first recording
and four songs from the second recording. And, I also
wanted songs that each musician could shine on.” What
about drums and other percussion instruments that you
play, I noticed that you are only playing on the
slappaphone and kalimba, why is that? “ Well, this
recording is more about the stories that my band
members are telling through their instruments. But, I
must say that because I do not work with these two
instruments with other artists, it is crucial that my
audience hear me present something entirely different
from what I do with other performers. Thus, giving a
new perspective of my individual artistry.” Well
Kahlil, I am looking forward to your next release and
I wish you success in showing more of this slappaphone
instrument.
- Steve Beck


""Inner Thoughts""

In this fourth release of Kahlil Kwame Bell he has shown his growth and maturity as an artist. All songs are originals that range from straight-ahead jazz to R&B, “The Dream.” As with all of his recordings he continues to display that he is a complete musician with a vast musical range not only as a performer but also as a writer, an arranger and producer. Mr. Bell is a multi-percussionist who plays drums and has introduced the Slappaphone, a nine pitched tubular melodic American made instrument, most associated with The Blue Man Group, to the jazz idiom. “Its’ uniqueness allows me to exhibit melodic pitches overlooked when I’m playing drums,” says Bell. On “Entering the Dream” he plays keyboards and Marlon Saunders beautifully delivers the sensitivity to Bell’s lyrics. It is apropos that the title of the first song is the straight-ahead tune entitled “Focus” because it sets the tone of what is to come and establishes that this is a jazz CD with alto saxophonist Bruce Williams playing an impressive solo. Though Inner Thoughts is a jazz CD as indicated by the soloists' improvisations it may be placed in the category of “world music.” According to Mr. Bell, “I’m American but I want to pay homage to the African beats and the roots of jazz. My desire in featuring the Slappaphone is that I want to make history with it." He combines African music with jazz effortlessly. Few drummers are known for leading a band and to often, when they do, one criticism is that they dominate the group. Given his talent as a soloist, the temptation might have been there, but not Kahlil Kwame Bell, for he is a giving person that transfers his generosity as a musician. Inner Thoughts is a well-balanced collaborative effort where each musician is allowed to shine.

Featured on this CD are long time band mates, Alan Grubner on violin, and Shelton Garner on guitar. The other musicians, Lonnie Plaxico (bass), Jeremy “Bean” Clemons (drums), , Marvin Sewell (guitar), are guys with whom Mr. Bell has worked with in various settings over the years. They mix perfectly together to give the recording the glue that it needs. Of course, it helps that the material is so rich because the mark of a good writer is to write tunes that are easy for the listener to remember but challenging to the musicians. All of the tunes on this CD are memorable! Since I heard the recording often one or more songs will pop into my head and capture me all over again; be it the title tune where Mr. Bell has incorporated voices, or the modal tune, “Sauti" which means "The Voice" in Arabic.

A graduate of State University of New York College at Old Westbury, Mr. Bell had some wonderful teachers; the late Makanda “Ken” McIntyre, the late Andrei Strobert, Warren Smith and others to whom he shows great respect. He believes that carrying on tradition and paying homage to others is crucial to the continued life of this music. To that end, Bell has written two songs, “Mr. B” dedicated to Max Bertrand where you hear another moving solo of Alan Grubner and “Quest for Greatness” written for pianist Kenny Kirkland, violinist Noel Pointer and percussionist Don Alias, featuring the young pianist, James Austin. It is fitting that he gave a nod to Don Alias, as Mr. Bell replaced him in Roberta Flack’s band for a year. Kudos to Kahlil Kwame Bell for creating such a terrifically, solid body of work. - Sheila E. Anderson


"Gift of Forgiveness"

Kahlil Kwame Bell has performed on over 80 recordings. He has toured extensively with Roberta Flack, Erika Badu, Sepia, Stefon Harris and two time Grammy Nominated Russell Gunn's Group Ethnomusicology. He also tours with his band "The Gift". The recordings that feature Mr. Bell, vary from Jazz to Folk, Rock to Hip Hop, Classical to World Music and Spoken Word to Spiritual. Kahlil plays over 1,000 percussion instruments and even does work on wood and clay flutes. He is a profound composer and arranger with strong concepts. He is known for leading his group with an innovative percussion instrument called the "slappaphone". It's unusual sound and shape capture audiences all over the world. When asked about the instrument Kahlil says that "it called him when he first heard it and it has become his voice, offering rhythm and melody to the listener". Gift Of Forgiveness is Kahlil's first record released as a leader and surprisingly enough not featuring his drumming as much as his composing. Kahlil says,"on many of the records I have done in the past I have taken solos that deal with my proficiency as a musician; I wanted to show more beauty in the melodies of my compositions rather than riffing on various percussion instruments".
- Steven Jones, Bergen Review


Discography

"Inner Thoughts" , "Act of Faith", "Gift of Forgiveness", "Kahlil Kwame Bell AND THE GIFT:Live at Sweet Rhythms in New York" ." Phor Mindz: Coming Through".

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Bio

Kahlil Kwame Bell has been called “…One of the most prolific musicians in the industry today.” The Master Percussionist Bell plays over 1,000 percussion instruments and has experimented with wood and clay flutes. His proficiency as a musician is often showcased in many of his solos performed in over 80 recordings. His genius can often be heard daily on Jazz/World music radio stations with numerous musical icons and legends. After many years as a side man, Kahlil has emerged as a profound composer and arranger with strong concepts. He is known for leading his band The Gift with an innovative percussion instrument called the "Slappaphone".

The “Slappaphone’s” unusual sound and shape captures audiences all over the world. When asked about the instrument, Kahlil says “The Slappaphone called me when I first heard it and it has become my voice…offering rhythm and melody to the listener.” As you listen, the music varies from Jazz to Folk, Rock to Hip Hop, Classical to World Music and Spoken Word to Spiritual. Kahlil’s layering of common sounds and instruments, blended with unique rhythms, reflects the unity of all cultures through music. His desire is to make history using the “ Slappaphone ”, a unique nine pitched tubular melodic American made instrument.