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Mulatu Steps Ahead (Bonus Track Version)

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Album Review

Mulatu Astatke already has a legendary status as the father of Ethio Jazz. But he hasn't been content to rest on his laurels. Instead he's forged ahead. This album proves very different from his work with the Heliocentrics (some of whom do feature here), or with the Either/Orchestra — it's an album of what is essentially a meandering, laid-back groove that looks at music from two angles — the Western and the Ethiopian. The former gets to stretch out on cuts like the opener, the reflective "Radcliffe," and "The Way to Nice." Ethiopia raises its head on "I Faram Gami I Faram," which some luscious Addis Ababa singing, a reworking of the style that made Astatke's name, and actually of one of his old compositions. But it can also be heard in the flute on "Ethio Blues," or the ways Astatke's vibraphone resembles a balafon in "Green Africa." "Assosa" is a true trip into rural Ethiopia, based on traditional music, while "Mulatu's Mood" crosses the continent to put another of the man's older pieces in a highlife framework and highlight the connections between styles. What's interesting is how much of a backseat Astatke is happy to take, rarely venturing out front for a solo (and even then they're brief, more like punctuations), but always powering things along as part of the rhythm section. The exception is on "Boogaloo," at heart Western enough until Astatke takes it to Ethiopia over the groove, and then an Ethiopian fiddle holds it in strange, beautiful territory. A beautiful album that adds to Astatke's stature.

Biography

Born: 1943 in Ethiopia

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Ethiopian musician (piano, organ, vibraphone, and percussion), composer, and arranger Mulatu Astatke (the name is spelled Astatqé on his French releases) is a household name in his native country, where he is known as the father of Ethio-jazz, a unique blend of pop, modern jazz, traditional Ethiopian music, Latin rhythms, Caribbean reggae, and Afro-funk. Born in 1943 in the west Ethiopia city of Jimma, Mulatu studied music in London, New York City, and Boston, where he was the first African graduate...
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Mulatu Steps Ahead (Bonus Track Version), Mulatu Astatke
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