All That Jazz! Filmmaker explores life and music of internationally renowned percussionist and composer Kahil El’Zabar

BE KNOWN a film by Dwayne Johnson-Cochran set to make Chicago preview Jan. 24-27 at Gene Siskel Film Center

CHICAGO ―The music created by Kahil El’Zabar has had a deep and profound impact on jazz performers worldwide. Now the untold story of this creative genius and teacher from Chicago is coming to the big screen as a documentary of El’Zabar’s tour from across the globe.

BE KNOWN, a film by Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, takes the viewer deep into a confluence of El’Zabar’s professional accolades as a renowned percussionist and composer and the personal struggles that help shape his psychedelic sounds. El’Zabar is shown in mesmerizing stage performances, after-show trysts, and tutoring the future generation of jazz musicians.

BE KNOWN debuts at 8pm on Jan. 24, 5:15pm on Jan. 25th, and 7:45pm on Jan. 27 at the Gene Siskel Film Theater, 164 N State Street Chicago, IL, 60601. Admission is $11 for adults and $7 students.  Both El’Zabar and Johnson-Cochran will be present at all showings and invite their fellow Chicagoans to join!

Born in 1953 and raised on the south side of Chicago, El’Zabar attended Lake Forest College and the University of Ghana. El’Zabar formed his own musical group, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and later another group, the Ritual Trio, both of which he still performs with. El’Zabar has released more than 36 recorded albums through Delmark Records.  In 1975, he was the chairman of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the youngest person to ever hold this position at the age of 22.  

In 2004, El’Zabar was named Chicagoan of the Year and this year, he’s being knighted and presented the Chevalier Medal of Letter from France.

El’Zabar’s talents have also extended to the cinematic arena, scoring and appearing in three feature films – “Love Jones” (New Line), “Mo’ Money” (Columbia Pictures) and “How U Like Me Now” (Universal Pictures), costarring in the feature film “Savannah”, and starring in two independent films – “So Low But Not Alone” and “The Last Set.” In addition, El’Zabar was chosen to do the arranging for the stage performances of The Lion King, has published a book of poetry titled Mis’taken Brilliance, and he tailors clothing both for his band and for others.

The film is directed by Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, a writer/director/producer and educator who is good friends with El’Zabar. Johnson-Cochran holds a master’s degree in filmmaking from School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts.

The film's executive producer, Nina Nichols, is owner of Resolution Research, a Denver-based full-service market research firm specializing in online sample and qualitative and quantitative research designed to gather market intelligence and opinions.

To schedule an interview with El’Zabar, Johnson-Cochran or Nichols, please contact 303-947-3500 or


Contact: Nina Nichols;; 303-947-3500

Movie Trailer:

Movie website, email, phone:; 909-BE-KNOWN