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Éthiopiques, Vol. 20: Live In Addis

Either/Orchestra

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Album Review

Critics have not been kind to the current music scene in Ethiopia, where modern technology is generally seen to be sapping the regional music of its best and most distinctive characteristics without bringing any new energy or sounds to the mix. It was with a sense of despair that local producer Francis Falceto contacted the Boston-based Either/Orchestra, an adventurous ten-piece big band, and suggested that they come to Addis Ababa and record a live concert under the sponsorship of the Alliance Ethio-Française, using traditional and contemporary Ethiopian melodies as their primary source material and inviting local singers and instrumentalists to participate. This two-disc set is the result, and although it has its flaws, it does a good job of communicating the excitement that was obviously in the air during this concert. At its worst, the music is endlessly discursive and self-indulgent — 12- and 15-minute-long epics like "Amlak Abét Abét" and "Kèsét Eswa Betcha" must have been lots of fun for the musicians, but don't do much to let the average listener in. On the other hand, the almost equally long "Muziqawi Silt" holds one's attention nicely with its funky Afro-jazz lines, and a weird sort of Semitic tango called "Antchim Endèléla" brings several different musical traditions together beautifully. Best of all are the elegantly composed "Eyèyè," with its gorgeous cloud banks of horn chords, and a soul-inflected song titled "Soul Tezeta," featuring Amharic vocals by Michael Bèlaynèh. Most listeners may find themselves paring the program down to a judiciously selected single disc, but even the filler is worth hearing.

Biography

Formed: 1985

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

On-and-off for over 15 years, Boston's ten-piece Either/Orchestra has performed engagingly idiosyncratic large-ensemble jazz while serving as a formative workshop for musicians who have received significant popular and critical recognition in their post-E/O careers. Since the band's inception in 1985, the guiding force behind Either/Orchestra has always been composer and tenor/soprano saxophonist Russ Gershon. Under Gershon's leadership, the ensemble has successfully balanced serious musicianship...
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