Monday, November 16, 2009

Cyclic Defrost Magazine

Cyclic Defrost Magazine

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Mulatu Astatke – New York-Addis-London-The Story Of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975 (Strut/Inertia)

Posted: 16 Nov 2009 12:26 PM PST


Mulatu Astatke is the father of Ethio Jazz, in this writers opinion one of the most amazing living composers. His vibraphone, conga and various other percussion playing was a real highlight throughout Ethiopiques series, his unique fusion of jazz, funk, latin and African rhythms nothing short of inspired. He’s played with Duke Ellington, had his music in the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers and earlier this year offered up a funky as hell collaboration with UK rare groove merchants the Helliocentrics.

Yet this compilation is why he is so revered. It opens with possibly his most famous piece, the ultra slinky Yekermo Sew, a cool jazzy beast with one of the longest melody lines this side of Ravel’s bolero. The tune is just so cool, so infectious seemingly without trying that his reputation would be secure on this track alone. Yet the album is brimming with inspired coolness. On the second piece I Faram Gami I Faram he takes a total left turn and comes out with a distinctively Cuban feel to his music, though on the third Emete the horns sound honky like some kind of lively noir juke joint, playing a loose mischievous sound that is brimming with possibilities. And that’s just the first three of twenty pieces, and they’re all amazing, with this loose ramshackle feel that does a disservice to him as it hides the complexity and compositional care.

It’s impossible to get an unbiased review from this writer about Mulatu Astatke. He is one of the masters, and this collection ably demonstrates why.

Bob Baker Fish

Mulatu Astatke – New York-Addis-London-The Story Of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975 (Strut/Inertia) is a post from: Cyclic Defrost Magazine.

Various Artists – Ghana Special (Soundway/ Fuse)

Posted: 16 Nov 2009 04:47 AM PST


You can speak of the 60’s or 70’s in hushed hallowed tones, but really the golden period is now. We’ve got so many labels exhaustively scouring various far flung African countries in an effort to find hidden Afro funk and jazz gems from yesteryear that they’re actually competing with each other. This collection focusses on the music of Ghana from between 1968 and 1981. It’s a double disc set that takes in highlife with rock, soul and jazz influences, all of which are previously un re released and culled from obscure bits of vinyl. This material was uncovered during the research for Sound Ways earlier Ghana Soundz compilation that highlighted some of the funkier rare groove floating around during the time. That’s not to say there’s not some ultra funky tunes kicking out on this compilation. Having achieved independence as recent as 1957, there’s a definite high energy exciting feel to the music, the large dance bands gradually being replaced by smaller electric guitars and instrumentation influenced by music from abroad. There’s a real sense of fun, even a little bit of experimentation, with a large focus on the rhythm, but also wah wah guitar, and deep bass, but then they’ll do something like add flute and jews harp (Hedzolleh Sound). And it’s these little ludicrous flourishes that make this collection such genius.

The only name this writer is aware of is Nigerian Fela Kuti who appears with Basa Basa Soundz on the track Dr. Solutsu. Though since he is not singing I can only assume he’s playing sax. Otherwise it’s a collection of a beautiful obscure bands offering some of the most bright upbeat, yet still super cool jazzy grooves that you could ever hope to bear witness to. There are 33 tracks here and not a single is wasted which is rare for a collection this size, and a testament to the quality control of the researchers. The tunes are definitely a product of their time, and sound quite dated, but this is a good thing. If this doesn’t get you moving you should probably check your pulse, it’s almost primal with its deep grinding groove. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Bob Baker Fish

Various Artists – Ghana Special (Soundway/ Fuse) is a post from: Cyclic Defrost Magazine.