Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu Steps Ahead (Strut)

 |   |  <1 min read

Mulatu Astatke: Green Africa
Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu Steps Ahead (Strut)

This transplanted jazz musician from Ethiopia (vibes/keyboards) has been one of the major (re)discoveries of the past few years. His ascent continues on this album which drifts to life on the airy, almost ambient opener where muted trumpet pokes over long and languid horn lines to create a post-Kind of Blue dreamscape.

Then it springs up a step or two with Green Africa with oddly repetitive scraped strings and percussion which reminds of the much overlooked Euro-Afro experiment Bitter Funeral Beer by Bengt Berger, Don Cherry and others on ECM in '82 (which drew on tribal rhythms from Ghana) - before it heads of into a swinging Ellington/Mingus territory.

Here with the Either/Orchestra, the Heliocentrics (who appeared on his Best of Elsewhere 2009 album Inspiration Information) and various African musicians, Astatke is allowed a wide palette to explore.

So he makes the most of it: he throws a nod to the James Bond theme in the cool-than-thou sophistication of The Way to Nice; in other places he defers to Sun Ra as previously; there is a lovely langour to Mulatu's Mood; Ethio's Blues brings hints of the folk style of his country into an Ellington ballad where his gentle vibes hypnotize . . . 

Mulatu Astatke is at quite a late-career high plateau and this album deserves serious attention if exploratory contemporary jazz with an ear to history means anything to you.  

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

THE MODERN JAZZ QUARTET (1968-70): Lost in the big Apple

THE MODERN JAZZ QUARTET (1968-70): Lost in the big Apple

If you had a bottomless pit of money to start your own record company, who would you sign? That's what the Beatles faced when they launched Apple Records in early 68. Their famous ad which... > Read more

GREGORY PORTER INTERVIEWED (2014): Grammy jazz gentle giant

GREGORY PORTER INTERVIEWED (2014): Grammy jazz gentle giant

Gregory Porter is a big man with a soft voice. The former linebacker from San Diego slipped sideways into music with the assistance of a mentor Kamau Kenyatta, got a part on Broadway in the cast... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Box Tops: I Met Her in Church (1968)

The Box Tops: I Met Her in Church (1968)

In later years Alex Chilton -- who died in March 2010 -- was mostly known for the legendary but short-lived Seventies power-pop band Big Star which was hugely influential across the generations and... > Read more

EPs by Yasmin Brown

EPs by Yasmin Brown

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Yasmin Brown. She will scoop up some of those many EP releases, in... > Read more