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

ALBERT AYLER: Opening the door to the future

ALBERT AYLER: Opening the door to the future

Albert Ayler -- the inspired, heroic, driven and sometimes difficult saxophonist who committed suicide in 1970 at age 34 -- still stands at a crossroads in jazz. By the late Nineties –... > Read more

Diana Krall: Quiet Nights (Verve/Universal)

Diana Krall: Quiet Nights (Verve/Universal)

Popular though she might be, Canadian Krall (interview here) has been considered something of a lightweight jazz chanteuse and it has perhaps only been live when her piano playing comes into its... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Various Artists: Womad; The World's Festival (Carte!l)

Various Artists: Womad; The World's Festival (Carte!l)

At a recent lecture-cum-talk to music-performance students about "world music" and what a sippery creature it is, I was asked what the common thread or identifying feature it might be.... > Read more

R.E.M. DOCUMENT REISSUED (2012): The times they were a-changin'

R.E.M. DOCUMENT REISSUED (2012): The times they were a-changin'

On paper, Scott Litt seemed an unlikely choice as co-producer of REM's 1987 album Document. The band were poised to make the great leap forward after the success of Lifes Rich Pageant of... > Read more