Album: Mulatu Astatke, Mulatu Steps Ahead (Strut)
Following his 2008 collaboration with The Heliocentrics, Ethiopian jazz legend Mulatu Astatke's star has risen appreciably, with last October's New York – Addis – London compilation drawn from his Sixties and Seventies work now followed by Mulatu Steps Ahead, his first new studio album in some time.
Recorded with a mixture of Ethiopian musicians, Heliocentrics, British jazz players and Boston's genre-straddling Either/Orchestra, it's an enjoyably eclectic collection in which Astatke standards like the Afro-Latin groove "I Faram Gami I Faram" and "Mulatu's Mood" rub shoulders with more recent compositions such as "Radcliffe" and "The Way To Nice". The former, written for Boston's Radcliffe Institute during Astatke's stay as a Harvard lecturer, makes a languid, meandering opener to the album, its breathy flutes finding shared space with the hoarse quality of the middle-eastern bowed-string sound, before vibes, electric piano and muted trumpet direct it to more exploratory, miasmic territory. "The Way To Nice", by contrast, sounds rather like the Road To Addis Ababa tempered with a few 007 chordings. The cinematic mood continues with "Ethio Blues", where loping, Mancini-esque brass work in alliance with the dry scrape of Ethiopian violin and Mulatu's own vibes.
Download this: Radcliffe; The Way To Nice; Mulatu's Mood; Ethio Blues