Monday, July 31, 2017

Julius Hemphill - 1978 - Raw Materials and Residuals

Julius Hemphill 
1978 -
Raw Materials and Residuals

01. C
02. Mirrors
03. Long Rhythm
04. Plateau
05. G Song

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Julius Hemphill
Cello – Abdul Wadud
Percussion – Dougoufana Famoudou Môyè (Don Moye)

Recorded in November 1977 at Generation Sound Studios, New York City.

One of the great titles in the modern jazz chronology, Hemphill utilizes raw materials of iron-wrought bop, hard-edged but swinging rough-cut diamonds, and the red clay of improvisation, which produce a residual effect going well beyond the mainstream of jazz, but stay this side of chaotic inflammations. Hemphill calls it "vigor to reflection to vigor," an apt description for the deep well of unfiltered ore mined by the alto saxophonist, cellist Abdul Wadud and multiple percussionist Famoudou Don Moye on this set. These five tracks, all composed by Hemphill, breathe with the vitality of a raging bull, yet are smart and centered in traditional jazz language. The supercharged free bop opener "C" roars with delight, as Hemphill adopts a stance quite reminiscent of Charlie Parker in its fluidity, originality and unabashed viscosity, never breaking down. Washes of cymbals, louder than the other two musicians, take "Mirrors" into a different realm altogether, cello and sax fighting for their space, and succeeding especially as it initiates a free excursion. A unison line during "Long Rhythm" leads to an easy swinging theme, and showcases Hemphill's tart, sweet sound while a forward-moving idea is pushed by Moye. More serene and spatial is "Plateau," with many themes ebbing and flowing in and out, accented by some overblown harmonics from Hemphill. The leader switches to soprano for "G Song," which features a bluesy cello groove by Wadud, flavored by Oriental modalities and a sweeter sound from Hemphill. Moye's arsenal of "little" percussion instruments -- bike horns, duck calls, woodblock, bells, whistles, etc. -- is displayed in a free section that has to be heard; there's no apt way to describe the pure, unadulterated improvisation that is also eminently listenable and in a way, quite humorous. This could be the best Hemphill recording, save perhaps Blue Boye. The economy of the trio, and their utter brilliance, brings out the best in Hemphill, and stands as a landmark recording in the second wave avant-garde movement of the '70s.

Julius Hemphill - 1977 - Blue Boye

Julius Hemphill 
Blue Boye

01. Countryside 10:07
02. Hotend 12:30
03. OK Rubberband 9:23
04. Antecedent 8:16
05. Kansas City Line 8:43
06. C.M.E. 11:31
07. Dirty Row 7:52
08. Homeboy Tootin' At The Dog/Star 9:11

Julius Hemphill, alto and soprano saxophones, flute, percussion

Recorded January 1977 at Mayhew Street Studios, Larchmont, NY

Julius Hemphill was the original leader of the World Saxophone Quartet (WSQ). He is also remembered for his extraordinary recordings with his own sextet, and for his work with the cellist Abdul Wadud to mention only some of his accomplishments. Hemphill died of diabetes in 1995.

Screwgun Records, a small label operated by the saxophonist Tim Berne, has recently released an early recording (1977) of Hemphill's entitled: Blue Boye.
This is a 2CD set of solo, and layered solo work, of this master musician/composer who accompanies himself on a variety of instruments. Hemphill is most known for his alto and soprano saxophone work. On this CD he also plays flute, and at times accompanies himself with clapping, hand percussion, and voice. "Accompanies" doesn't do justice to the duet and sometimes small ensemble feel of the music.

It is likely that Hemphill will ultimately be recognized as a major 20th century jazz musician and composer. With this in mind, "Blue Boye" is an invaluable addition to recorded jazz, but Screwgun Records can be thanked for releasing this CD set for more than historical reasons. Not only is it a quirky portrait of an American master early in his career, but it is also startling jazz.

Those who are familiar with Hemphill?s saxophone virtuosity ranging from blues to bebop and far beyond will be on familiar ground. But the listener will also be treated to a flute/voice solo that slides jazz into slapstick comedy. The opening solo, alto cut on the second disc, 'Kansas City Line,' is alone worth the price of admission. Soulful, bluesy, subtle, and complex are adjectives I associate with Hemphill and this wonderful disc set only deepens my admiration for one of the truly great figures of modern jazz.

By Mike Neely (All About Jazz)

Julius Hemphill - 1975 - Coon Bid'ness

Julius Hemphill
Coon Bid'ness

01. Reflections 2:30
02. Lyric 7:24
03. Skin 1 10:07
04. Skin 2 2:28
05. The Hard Blues 20:07

Alto Saxophone – Black Arthur Blythe (tracks: A1 to A4)
Alto Saxophone, Composed By – Julius Hemphill
Baritone Saxophone – Hamiet Bluiett
Cello – Abdul Wadud
Congas – Daniel Ben Zebulon (tracks: A1 to A4)
Drums – Barry Altschul (tracks: A1 to A4)

The Hard Blues:
Drums – Philip Wilson
Engineer – Oliver Sain
Producer – Julius Hemphill
Trumpet – Baikida E. J. Carroll

Side A recorded on January 29,1975 at C.I. Studios, New York City.
Side B recorded in February 1972 at Archway Studios, St. Louis, Missouri.

Takes a little bit to get going, but once it does, you're dealing with some furiously playful avant-garde jazz. On side one, Hemphill fronts a sextet that includes Arthur Blythe (playing alto sax but only in the left channel, Hemphill's alto is in the center), Hamiet Bluiett on baritone sax, ABdul Wadud on cello, Barry Altschul on drums and Daneil Ben Zebulon on congas. Together, they can make quite a racket. "Reflections" and "Lyric" start the LP off with some loosely intertwined saxophones. There's no rhythm, and it's hard to tell how much was composed and how little direction was given beforehand, but it holds my interest alright. They feel a little like a warm-up for the last 3/4 of the record, which feature some flat out amazing ensemble performances. "Skin 1" and "Skin 2" are both incredible compositions. The low-end is taken up entirely by Wadud's cello, which is both bowed and plucked throughout and lays down a sick groove with Altschul in the beginning (someone should sample it if they haven't already) and the heads are like off-kilter dissonant saxophone harmonies that bring to mind Zappa with a pinch of RIO blended with jazz. There's lots of collective improv and total freedom and all that good stuff, and then side two is taken up by "The Hard Blues" (apt title), a recording from 1972. The lineup is different (Hemphill, Wadud, and Bluiett remain, Philip Wilson replaces Altschul on drums and Baikida E J Carroll plays trumpet) but it's just as impressive as the other group. It's a slow but exciting take on the blues, with more awesome repeated cello 'riffs' and individual solos taking place, unfortunately the recording quality is quite poor. Excellent stuff, comes highly recommended for anyone interested in avant-garde jazz.

Julius Hemphill - 1972 - Dogon A.D

Julius Hemphill
Dogon A.D.

01. Dogon A.D. 14:30
02. Rites 8:07
03. The Painter 15:00
04. The Hard Blues 20:07

Cello – Abdul K. Wadud
Percussion – Philip Wilson
Saxophone, Flute – Julius Hemphill
Trumpet – Baikaida Yaseen
Baritone Saxophone – Hamiet Bluiett on track 4

Recorded at Archway Studios, St. Louis, MO in February 1972.

Julius Arthur Hemphill (January 24, 1938 – April 2, 1995) was a jazz composer and saxophone player. He performed mainly on alto saxophone, less often on soprano and tenor saxophones and flute

Hemphill was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and attended I.M. Terrell High School (as did Ornette Coleman). He studied the clarinet with John Carter, another I.M. Terrell alumnus, before learning saxophone. Gerry Mulligan was an early influence. Hemphill joined the United States Army in 1964, and served for several years, and later performed with Ike Turner for a brief period. In 1968, Hemphill moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and co-founded the Black Artists' Group (BAG), a multidisciplinary arts collective that brought him into contact with artists such as saxophonists Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett, trumpeters Baikida Carroll and Floyd LeFlore, and writer/director Malinke Robert Elliott.

Hemphill moved to New York City in the mid-1970s, and was active in the then-thriving free jazz community. He gave saxophone lessons to a number of musicians, including David Sanborn and Tim Berne. Hemphill was probably best known as the founder of the World Saxophone Quartet, a group he formed in 1976, after collaborating with Anthony Braxton in several saxophone-only ensembles. Hemphill left the World Saxophone Quartet in the early 1990s, and formed a saxophone quintet.

Hemphill recorded over twenty albums as a leader, about ten records with the World Saxophone Quartet and recorded or performed with Björk, Bill Frisell, Anthony Braxton and others. Late in his life, ill-health (including diabetes and heart surgery) forced Hemphill to stop playing saxophone, but he continued writing music until his death in New York City. His saxophone sextet, led by Marty Ehrlich, also released several albums of Hemphill's music, but without Hemphill playing. The most recent is entitled The Hard Blues, recorded live in Lisbon after Hemphill's death.

A source of information on Hemphill's life and music is a multi-hour oral history interview that he conducted for the Smithsonian Institution in March and April 1994, and which is held at the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

A seminal session from the St Louis scene of the early 70s – one that was humming nearly as much as Chicago was with the AACM at the time! As with the larger organization in the Windy City, St Louis had the Black Artists Group – of which Julius Hemphill was a key member, forming fresh new ideas in improvisatory jazz with players who went onto have an undeniable impact on the global scene as well. This album's one of the standout recordings of the Black Artists era at its best – a record produced by Hemphill, but equally balanced between his own alto and flute, the trumpet of Baikida Carroll, cello of Abdul Wadud, and drums of Phillip Wilson – plus a bit of added baritone from Haimet Bluiett. The rhythms are quite open, but there's also a nice sense of structure to the record too – a bridge between spiritual and free jazz that prefaces the impact that both Hemphill and Bluiett would have on the New York loft jazz generation. 

From the very first notes of this album, you know that something special is taking place. The cello of Abdul Wadud brings a repetitive theme, supported by some energetic drumming by Philip Wilson, with Hemphill and Baikida Carroll on sax and trumpet playing the main theme. After a minute or so Carroll drops away and Hemphill starts with a magical sax solo. Wadud and Wilson relentlessly continue with their hypnotic basis, sometimes only playing parts of it, yet keeping it implicitly present at all times. After about 13 minutes the piece changes and the contrapuntal interplay between the cello on the one hand and the sax and trumpet on the other hand leads to a climactic finale. "Dogon A.D." is phenomenal in the simplicity of its form and the power and creativity of its performance. "Rites", the second number, starts with strong interplay of the four band members, who quickly pursue their own lines without loosing focus of the whole. "Painter" brings Hemphill on flute. This CD is an absolute must for all jazz fans. It is unfortunately impossible to get in stores anymore, and it is very hard to understand that it was never brought out on CD.

Hüseyin Ertunç Trio - 1970 - Mûsikî

Hüseyin Ertunç Trio 

01. Creator Spaces                             08:45    
02. More Beautiful Vibrations From The Creator     12:45    
03. Space On Space                             20:45

Recorded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1970.

Michael Cosmic, alto & sopranino saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, piccolo, organ, percussion
Phil Musra, tenor & soprano saxophone, flute, zurna, clarinet, percussion
Hüseyin Ertunç, drums

Monster free jazz private press lp entitled Musiki by The Huseyin Ertunc Trio.It is an original pressing on Intex Records out of Bayside New York.This is a Classic Cosmic free jazz improv lp from the mid 70s and has never been legitimately reissued in any format! Truly Killer Out There jams!Has at times an arabic trance vibe. 

To give you an idea as to where these guys where coming from;here's a taste of the liner notes: 'In now listening shant's moving those whom hear lights outside too's numerous willing towards all spirits roundm's form above thy one's insides space carry animal't surface in reflect placement..."

A new world of improvisational freedom opened up for me when I first heard drummer Huseyin Ertunç's 1970 LP Musiki (Intex), with reedmen/multi-instrumentalists/brothers Phill Musra and Michael Cosmic. Ertunç returned to his native Turkey about twenty years ago (and performs with the Konstrukt collective), but Musra - this tune's composer - now resides in Los Angeles and, as regular readers of this blog know, is still active in music. Although I initially assumed that Musiki and Musra's companion LP The Creator Spaces were recorded at the same session, in truth Musiki was recorded months earlier. The Creator Spaces is a bit more spacious than Ertunç's date, though both are quite intense documents of self-produced and spiritually-directed improvisation. Knotty and weird, there's a folksy unhinged-ness that really spoke to me in a way quite different from Albert Ayler, the AACM, and other music I was spending time with when I dropped the needle on the trio's debut album. Ertunç's percussion work really shocked me and it's still absolutely fascinating (as you'll hear below), and Cosmic's organ playing behind/around Musra's tenor is just... something else. A CD reissue was floating around a few years ago and can probably still be procured.

Echo Del Africa National - 1976 - Récit Historique De Bobo Dioulasso

Echo Del Africa National 
Récit Historique De Bobo Dioulasso

01. Récit Historique De Bobo Dioulasso
02. Récit Historique De Bobo Dioulasso Suite

Epic and political story of the former Upper-Volta -now Burkina Faso- region of Bobo Dioulasso from its historical origins to the Independence. Told in French, Dioula and Bambara by Youssouf Diara accompanied by the Echo Del Africa band, one of the best bands of the time. Tracks are not listed but the styles range from deep Manding blues to some wild rockin' Voltaique tracks. Hard to find in good condition!

As strong as any single in Echo Del Africa’s catalog might have been, they would collectively serve as training for the group’s magnum opus, Récit Historique de Bobo-Dioulasso. Inspired by Bembeya Jazz National’s Regard Sur Le Passé, Echo Del Africa’s musical testimonial would give the emboldened troupe a chance to tell the history of their nation and their people from their own unique perspective, live onstage, for both rural and cosmopolitan audiences across the region. “It is our duty,” stated José Thiono-By on the album jacket, “to give the best of ourselves, hands in hands, in union and fraternity, in order to ensure the continuity of our Upper Volta, forever liberated.

Bob Downes - 1970 - Electric City

Bob Downes 
Electric City

01. No time like the present
02. Keep off the grass
03. Don't let tomorrow get you down
04. Dawn until dawn
05. Go find time
06. Walking on
07. Crush hour
08. West II
09. In your eyes
10. Piccadilly circles
11. Gonna take a journey

Bass – Daryl Runswick, Harry Miller, Herbie Flowers
Congas – Robin Jones
Drums – Alan Rushton, Clem Cattini, Dennis Smith
Flugelhorn – Bud Parks, Harry Beckett, Ian Carr
Flute [Concert Flutes], Performer [Bedee], Vocals, Woodwind [Mouthpieces], Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Bob Downes
Guitar – Chris Spedding, Ray Russell
Trumpet – Bud Parks, Harry Beckett, Ian Carr, Kenny Wheeler, Nigel Carter

Flutist / composer Bob Downes is one of the most creative and innovative figures on the British Jazz scene, with a wide scope of cross-genre contributions from contemporary Classical Music via Jazz and Jazz-Rock to Free Jazz and Improvised Music. Downes was an integral part of the late 1960s / early 1970s revolution, that emerged in British and European Jazz, emancipating it from years of American influence and domination, and participated in numerous seminal recordings made during that period. His many activities were usually executed under the loosely defined umbrella name of Open Music, which varied from a trio to a large ensemble and as the name suggests was completely free from any stylistic or genre restrictions. After recording several albums for mainstream record labels in his early days, Downes created his own record label, called Openian Records, on which he releases his projects, being one of the first musicians to do so. By the early 1980s Downes moved to Germany, where he lives and continues his work today. This incredible album presents Downes as a composer of Jazz-Rock oriented shorter pieces, packed with energy and intricate arrangements. The list of participating musicians is awe inspiring, with some of the most illustrious musicians on the scene at the time, like trumpeters Kenny Wheeler, Ian Carr and Harold Beckett, guitarist Chris Spedding and Ray Russell, bassist Harry Miller and many others. The music is brilliant, breathtaking and captivating. The virtuosic performances are ample expressions of the underlying musical currents and once immersed in the magic sound, the listener is completely absorbed and mesmerized. They don't make music like this any more, that's for sure. Brilliant stuff!

Released on the legendary Vertigo "swirl" label, Electric City was one of the wilder and more obscure issues of the famous 6360 series. But if I say wild and obscure, it is nothing compared to his later works in the mid-70's, as here the music is very accessible resembling some kind of brass rock, as the cast of guest on Bob's first album is an impressive who's who of Phillips-related musicians, pictured assembled on the inner gatefold. The outer gate-fold presents a wild collage electronic devices, wild psychedelic colors and Downes in full action, the whole thing permeating a white dummy head; stunning, especially once you'll be that white face

Made of short tracks (except the closing opus), the album has splendid up-tempo rhythms, juicy horn arrangements, great virtuoso musicianship and acceptable vocals. Yup, Downes' vocals are not the main asset of this album yet, Bob's lyrics (all his except for the opening No Time like The Present, which is from poet Robert Cockburn, foreseeing their collab of Deep Down Heavy) are always interesting, but let's face it, we want his flute and sax and he doesn't disappoint. Indeed the fabulous Keep Off The Grass, Dawn Until Dawn (where Downes shows his passion for sax as well), the pedestrian Walkin' On (Bob goes nuts on the sax), the tense Crush Hour, the explosive Piccadilly Circles (waaaah, the pun) and its direct continuity into the lengthy (7-mins+) Gonna Take A Journey, which plunges into free improvs.

Other titles are more R'nB, like Don't Let Tommorrow, Go Find Time, and the bossa nova West II (the worst track of the album, even if saved by a high-flying sax solo) are less enthralling, but all remain high energy. Although we are in full brass-rock delire with this album, it never gets cheesy or pompous or bombastic as BS&T. No we're facing some of the best of the genre, right up with Brainchild, Galliard and a few more.

Although Electric City is a fine album, one that epitomizes his first three efforts, it sounds NOTHING like the later works of his. But this one is definitely worth a shot and should be the introduction to Downes' world of sounds.

Bob Downes - 1970 - Deep Down Heavy

Bob Downes 
Deep Down Heavy

01. Too Late
02. Day Dream
03. Walking On
04. The Wrong Bus
05. Popular Cheam
06. Don't Let Tomorrow Get You Down
07. Jasmine
08. Got No Home
09. We All Enter In
10. Thebes Blues
11. Hollow Moment

Bass – Harry Millar
Design – Jack Wood
Drums – Allan Rushton, Derek Hogs, Laurie Allan
Guitar – Chris Spedding, Peter Billam, Ray Russell
Vocals [Poetry Reading], Lyrics By – Robert Cockburn
Vocals, Saxophone, Flute, Music By – Bob Downes

Among the unlikeliest anomalies to have seeped from the fringes of Britain’s avant-garde jazz-rock scene, 1970’s Deep Down Heavy was originally issued, unthinkably, on the Music For Pleasure label. MFP relied upon cut-price, cutthroat reissues and moribund MOR for its desultory bread and butter, yet here it was, surreal offering an outlet for flutist/ saxophonist Bob Downes and an unruly ensemble of like-minded noisemakers (not least guitarist Chris Spedding).
The album “budget”, such as it was, probably struggled to limp into a single figure, but this turned out to be a long-term gain. Mostly recorded in London’s Conway Hall – very quickly indeed – it bristles with brassy, scratchy, first-take belligerence (Thebes Blues, Walking On, Too Late). Downes had the musicians face each other in a circle, focusing their energies inwards; engineers John Boyden and Anton Kwiatkowsky, habituated to classical recordings, deployed an insufficient number of microphones, resulting in a monumentally exciting sonic fracas. The drums in particular benefit hugely from the hall’s natural reverb, cannonading off the back wall, while the overall mystery murk compares very favourably with The Plastic People Of The Universe and Brainticket.
The band performances are interspersed with audio-vérité “field recordings” of the cheerfully peculiar Downes playing his bamboo flute on both the London Underground and a double-decker.

A rough 'n' ready excursion into the murkier realms of British psychedelia, this underrated little gem seems to get a rough deal these days, mainly thanks to it's rushed, low-budget production and the gritty, almost Altman-esq sound quality. Issued in 1970 on the EMI-backed Music For Pleasure imprint, 'Deep Down Heavy' was one of three albums issued during 1970 by jazz-flautist Bob Downes, the others being 'Open Music' and the high-brow sounding 'Bob Downes New Sounds For Flute, Percussion & Synthesizers'. Of the three, this curious psych-jazz relic is perhaps the strongest, with Downes showing off his impressive flute and saxophone skills over a series of deeply-psychedelic, blues-tinged jams. Also involved is poet buddy Robert Cockburn, who adds some very gritty vocals, and rising young guitarist Chris Spedding, who seemed to be everywhere during this time, fresh from stints with both Nucleus and Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments to name but a couple. To put it bluntly, 'Deep Down Heavy' is a product of it's time, very much a lost relic from a bygone age. But that's exactly what makes it so fascinating. From the rough opening blasts of the hard-rockin' 'Too Late', to the hazy bad-trip psychedelia of the hypnotic closer 'Circus Rising', this is an album that cooks with a raw, fuzzy, late night power perfectly summed up by the album's title. It's an ambiance that is maintained throughout, with surreal background noises and strange instrumental interludes adding to the already highly mystical feel, but this is very much Downes baby and it is he who dominates, pulling off some scintillating solo's on both flute and saxophone. The mixture of deeply-trippy cosmic jamming, edgy blues riffs and druggy jazz breaks exists to serve his improvised displays, and to a lesser extent vice-versa, the lo-fi sound quality only heightening the whole late-sixties vibe. This is certainly for those with a penchant for obscure psych relics, and this writer is confident that if you take a chance on 'Deep Down Heavy' you won't be disappointed. A real curio from the heart of the sixties, it doesn't really get any more underground than this.

Bob Downes - 1970 - Open Music

Bob Downes 
Open Music

01. Dream Journey
02. Birth Of A Forest
03. Integration
04. Contract
05. Ghosts In Space
06. Desert Haze
07. Electric City

Alto Saxophone, Flute [Alto, Bamboo], Saxophone [Mouthpieces], Tam-tam [Small] – Bob Downes
Bass – Harry Miller (tracks: B1 to B6)
Concert Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Bells [Chinese]– Bob Downes
Drums – Dennis Smith, John Stevens
Guitar – Chris Spedding (tracks: B1 to B6)

On Track 1:
Baritone Saxophone – John Warren
Flute – Jim Gregory
Performer [Acetate Paper] – Bob Downes
Tam-tam – Dennis Smith
Tenor Saxophone – Clive Stevens
Timpani, Vibraphone, Tam-tam [Large], Finger Cymbals – Derek Hogg
Trombone – Chris Pine
Trumpet – Butch Hudson, Henry Lowther, Nigel Carter

Bob Downes was a well-known "studio rat" or a "session man" that played on many 60's records, from MANFRED MANN to ANDWELLA'S DREAM (and later on EGG); and his fantastic flute was second to JETHRO TULL's Ian Anderson only. By the turn of the decade, he had decided to try his own luck and 1970 was a particularly fruitful year for him: 2 full solo album and one collaboration. Released on the legendary Vertigo swirl label, Electric City was a strange album between avant-garde jazz and hard rock. The album failed to sell and by the time Bob Downes was ready to record his second album, Phillips had demoted him to their "normal" label (only GRACIOUS suffered the same treatment). Actually "Open Music" came out as his more successful release and has been a collector item for years, now. 

The same year, Bob Downes also released a wild album called "Deep Down Heavy" (and its spectacular artwork) with poet Robert Cockburn reading out his text, making another unusual record. 

None of the three albums sold enough for Downes to keep trying out his solo stint. Comes then a gap where I guess he returned to studio sessions for the next couple of years, most likely appearing on avant-garde jazz albums. This in turn led him to be noticed by some Modern Artistic Dance companies and in 72, he was commissioned for two "dance" project. Forming his own trio OPEN MUSIC, named after his more successful album, "Diversion" proved an interesting release where jazz-rock alternated with free form music, while the catastrophic "Episodes At 4AM" (74), which was a Welsh project, filled with obtuse free-form music. The following year saw Downes release "Hell's Angels", then later "Dawn Dreams", "South American Journey" and "Inside Stonehenge", before taking a long break. 

Bob Downes moved to the continent in the late 80's and is now currently based in Germany, and continues to perform as a solo artiste, playing during the execution of paintings and art exhibitions running flute workshops and releasing the odd album now and then, such as 93's "Dreams of Nature".

Open Music was Bob Downes' debut album, recorded for the Philips label in 1969 and his impact on the UK scene was such that he was voted top place in the flute category of the Melody Maker jazz poll's British musician section for three consecutive years from 1972. It has until now never been reissued on CD and rare vinyl copies have attracted high sums in second-hand markets. Although Downes is best known for his flute playing, he is a genuine multi-instrumentalist, playing no fewer than seven instruments on this album, including the less conventional, acetate paper. 

The recording's centerpiece is "Dream Journey." The piece— which received its premiere by Ballet Rambert on November 27, 1969 in London—runs just over twenty minutes. Divided into two parts, the first eleven minutes of the track are devoted to flute and percussion, with special emphasis on the sporadic, dramatic interspersions of timpani. The whole piece is very cinematic and reflects music of a more classical nature, but the second half is considerably more jazz informed. The ensemble sax sections are dynamically engaging, underpinned by acoustic bass and drums building to repeated crescendos with Downes providing an exciting flute solo. 

The next five tracks are either solo flute, flute and drums, or flute, drums, and bass. These largely improvised tracks are predominantly quiet, ruminative pieces dominated by Downes' intricate flute. However, "Ghosts in Space" is more structured with a strangely hypnotic head defined by flute, arco bass, and drums, while the middle collective improvisation section is enlivened by Downes screaming in the noisier parts. The final track, "Electric City" which was to give its name to a succeeding album, recorded by Downes for Vertigo (1970), is effectively a jazz-rock piece. Again, Downes inserts some scat singing—or more accurately, shouting—all against a backdrop of ostinato bass guitar, Chris Spedding's unmistakable guitar work, and wild multi-tracked saxophones, all conjuring up an exciting mêlée of sound. This album surely explains Downes high-ranking in the Melody Maker polls. Open Music is an unusual and innovative collection of flute mastery.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Marvin Hannibal Peterson - 1981 - The Angels Of Atlanta

Marvin Hannibal Peterson 
The Angels Of Atlanta

01. The Angels Of Atlanta 12:34
02. The Story Teller 8:50
03. The Inner Voice 6:35
04. Mother's Land 5:04
05. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child 10:17

Bass – Cecil McBee
Cello – Diedre Murray
Piano – Kenny Barron
Tenor Saxophone – George Adams
Trumpet – Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson
Vocals – Pat Peterson

Choir – The Harlem Boys Choir
Directed By [Choir] – Walter Turnbull

Location: Sound Ideas, New York City and Church of Intercession
Date: February 15th, 1981 and February 19th, 1981

One of the most ambitious works ever by Marvin Hannibal Peterson – a larger work dedicated to the 20 African-American children murdered by a serial killer in Atlanta, performed here with a mix of choral voices and jazz instrumentation! The piece follows strongly in a legacy of that format started by Max Roach and continued by Billy Harper – and Peterson works here with players that include George Adams on tenor, Kenny Barron on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Dierde Murray on cello – plus the voices of The Harlem Boys Choir, and lead vocals by Pat Peterson. The whole thing's wonderful – soaring and spiritual without sounding hokey at all .

The obvious point of comparison here is A Love Supreme : both are post-bop albums with an avant-garde tinge That attempt is convey through intense spiritual catharsis instrumental suites. Technically, I'd say the musicians on each album are equally skilled Kenny Barron's muscular backing piano on the title track is every bit the match of McCoy Tyner, for example Hannibal himself and stands up surprisingly well next to Coltrane. If anything, makes playing Their Coltrane's quartet look a bit stiff! (I suppose that's what happened in the fifteen years between the two albums: Jazz absorbed the intensity of Coltrane and the looseness of Coleman into its own vocabulary.) 

The biggest difference, I guess, Is That this album's more communal and Grandly-scoped: f a Love Supreme was the musical equivalent of a prayer in your own home, this is like being at a crowded sermon on Sunday evening. The more Explicitly thematic touches (the children's choir on the opening title track, the two vocal jazz cuts on the B-side) make this one perhaps more emotionally explicit, but they can also make it feel suffocating, more hamhanded in its spirituality. Regardless, this is a very good jazz album That just so happened to be released too late to become canonized as a true classic.

An album made to acknowledge the tragic murder of 20 African-American school children to a serial killer in Atlanta. Taking into consideration the subject you would expect this to be either a very angry or very melancholic recording, but not at all, this album seems to be hopeful of a better life for Those children now they're out of the cruel one they had. The whole thing is totally beautiful and listen from start to finish, and due to the subject matter, really quite an emotional ride. Parts of this album come under the soaring vocal genre, matching the Sons & Daughters of Lite and Ensemble Al-Salaam for that powerful, yet beautiful vocal styles. Highlights Well, this album is magical from start to finish. Oh, and without a doubt the finest outing from Mr. Hannibal. Absolutely essential in my book.

Marvin Hannibal Peterson - 1975 - Hannibal

Marvin Hannibal Peterson

01. The Rabbit 2:36
02. Revelation 7:36
03. Misty 7:54
04. The Voyage 6:34
05. Soul Brother - In Dedication To Malcolm X 13:47

Bass - Stafford James
Bells, Percussion – Chris Hart
Cello – Diedre Murray
Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Whistle, Timpani – Thabo Michael Carvin
Piano – Michael Cochrane
Trumpet, Koto, Vocals, Liner Notes [Poem] – Hannibal Marvin Peterson

Recorded: July 1 and 2, Tonstudio Bauer Ludwigsburg/Germany

An exciting, serpentine solo maker in the mold of Don Cherry -- Peterson has chops but leaves precision to the wind in favor of spontaneous eruptions of melody. Peterson has a more well-rounded technique than Cherry, however, and plays with greater force. Unlike many contemporary free jazz players, Peterson is adept at older styles; he's played under such adventurous yet tradition-bound bandleaders as Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Gil Evans, and Elvin Jones, and with such dyed-in-the-wool avant-gardists as Roswell Rudd, Ken McIntyre, and Deidre Murray.

Children of the Fire As a youth, Peterson learned drums and cornet. He attended North Texas State University from 1967-1969 before moving to New York in 1970. That year, he toured the East Coast with Kirk; the next, he joined Evans' orchestra, with which he would continue to play into the '80s. In the early '70s he performed and recorded with a variety of big-name leaders, including Pharoah Sanders, Roy Haynes, and the aforementioned Jones. He also led and played trumpet and koto with the Sunrise Orchestra, a group that included the cellist Murray. Tenor saxophonist George Adams was a frequent collaborator. Peterson has led recording sessions infrequently; his first album was called Children of the Fire, for the defunct Sunrise label (1974). He recorded subsequently for Enja, MPS, and Inner City. Though as a performer he's kept something of a low profile over the years, Peterson -- now known simply as Hannibal -- emerged in the mid-'90s having composed the monumental African Portraits, an orchestral piece that incorporated a jazz quartet, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (conducted by the eminent composer/conductor Daniel Barenboim), the Morgan State University Choir, the Kennedy-King College Community Chorus, the Doris Ward Workshop Chorale, four operatic singers, various traditional African musicians, and a handful of African-American vocalists. The meticulously composed (and critically hailed) piece differed greatly form the small jazz ensemble contexts with which he had made his professional name. A recorded version was issued by the Teldec label.

The B-side's on a par with Children of the Fire. The A-side, um, isn't. Really isn't. I dunno who told Hannibal it'd be a good idea to pad out the album with a seven minute cover of Misty, but I hope they were fired.

Marvin Hannibal Peterson - 1974 - Children of the Fire

Marvin Hannibal Peterson 
Children of the Fire

01. Forest Sunrise 9:02
02. The Bombing 3:10
03. Prayer 4:50
04. Aftermath 17:30
05. Finale 1:50

Bass – Richard Davis
Cello – Diedre Murray
Congas – Lawrence Killian
Drums – Jabali
Flute – Art Webb
Percussion – Barbara Burton, Teule Hart (tracks: B1)
Piano – Barbara Burton (tracks: B1), Michael Cochran
Sitar – Marvin Tuten
Trumpet – Hannibal
Viola – Judith Graves, Julius Miller
Violin – John Blake, Myung Hi Kim, Rynae Rocha, Stanley Hunte
Vocals – Alpha Johnson, Waheeda Massey (tracks: A1)

Trumpet and koto player Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson has led a reclusive career in jazz since the early '70s, when he first started making albums. A free jazz player in the style of Don Cherry with the metallic tone of Freddie Hubbard, Peterson is widely unknown even to the most diehard jazz fans. His low profile is strange given that he played with popular artists like Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones and was a regular member of Gil Evans' big band from '72 to '81.
On his recently reissued first album, Children of the Fire (Sunrise, 1974), Peterson takes his Sunrise Orchestra deep into jazz-classical territory, making his music sound like the Third Stream of Charles Mingus and Gil Evans.

Children of the Fire is a suite in five movements, beginning with "Forest Sunrise," a magical segment of bird-sounding whistles and string arrangements in front of a percussion backdrop. The second part of the movement, "Rhythm Ritual," starts off with the orchestra but then breaks into a straight-ahead but funky rhythm by drummer Billy Hart, bassist Richard Davis and pianist Michael Cochrane. Peterson then enters with a fiery blues solo that recalls the big fusion band sound of electric Miles.

Peterson composed all of the music on Children of the Fire, including the poetry on the spiritual hymn "Song of Life," sung by Waheeda Massey. The music and poems on the album were dedicated to the children of Vietnam during the tail end of the war in Southeast Asia. The highlight of the album is the fourth movement, "The Aftermath," which has a rapid and colorful drum solo by Billy Hart and a long free bop solo by Peterson that is encouraged by the spontaneous trio of Hart, Davis, and Cochrane.

Children of the Fire is an excellent snapshot of where fusion was headed during the early '70s. Electric jazz-rock, injected with heavy doses of classicism, was made popular by the Mahavishnu Orchestra during this time. But the underground Sunrise Orchestra delivers the goods, mixing hard bop and abstract jazz with a Far Eastern spirituality.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hailu Mergia and the Walias - 1977 - Tche Belew

Hailu Mergia and the Walias 
Tche Belew

01. Tche Belew
02. Yemiasleks Fikir
03. Yikirta Lemminalehu
04. Musical Silt
05. Lomi Tera-tera
06. Woghenei
07. Ibakish Tarekigne
08. Birukane
09. Eti Gual Blenai
10. Yenuro Tesfa Alegne

Alto Saxophone – Abebe Kassa
Bass Guitar – Melaku Gabrie
Chorus – Aster Aweke, Getachew Kassa, Tegest Abate
Drums – Temare Haregu
Guitar – Mahmmud Aman
Organ – Hailu Mergia
Piano – Girma Beyene
Saxophone, Flute – Moges Habte
Trumpet – Yohannes Tekola
Xylophone, Congas – Mulatu Astatke

Dozens of cherished recordings were made during the legendary “golden age” of Ethiopian music, an era stretching from the early 1960’s through the mid-1970’s. Less-discussed are the songs made in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution that toppled Emperor Hailu Selassie I. The acclaimed and highly sought-after LP by Hailu Mergia and the Walias, Tche Belew, an album of instrumentals released in 1977, is perhaps the most seminal of these recordings. The story of the Walias band is a critical chapter in Ethiopian popular music, taking place during a period of music industry flux and political complexity in the country. 

Hailu Mergia, a keyboardist and arranger diligently working the nightclub scene in Addis Ababa, formed the Walias in the early 1970’s with a core group of musical colleagues assembled from the remnants of prior working bands attached to the Zula and Venus clubs. One of the first “private” bands, the Walias got a steady gig at the prestigious Hilton Addis Ababa and remained independent from the government-supported bands of the time as well as from the clubs who employed bands. 

While the oppressive and often brutal, Socialism-inspired Derg government (1974-1987) had a firm grip on Ethiopians following the revolution, Walias organized their own contracts and eschewed government patronage. Unlike the celebrated bands of the run-up to Selassie’s removal—the Police Orchestra, Imperial Bodyguard Band, National Theater Band, Ethiopian Army Band, Hager Fikir Theater Band, City Hall Theatre Folkloric Group and so on—the Wailas developed fame on their own terms and maintained control of their instruments and performances. They played the blues-, funk- and soul-informed tunes Mergia was writing and arranging, while cutting 45rpm recordings released by Kaifa Records with popular vocalists, including Getachew Kassa and Alemayehu Borobor. 

After several singles, Mergia decided to do something different: record a full-length album. The band—which at the time featured Moges Habte (saxophone and flute), Mahmmud Aman (guitar), Yohannes Tekola (trumpet), Melake Gabrie (bass guitar), Girma Beyene (piano), Temare Haregu (drums), Abebe Kassa (alto saxophone) and special guest Mulatu Astatke (vibes)—entered Radio Voice of the Gospel studios to record their first long-player. The director of the station knew Mergia personally and connected the band with a sound engineer there. (Incidentally, the Lutheran-owned station was taken over shortly thereafter by the Derg government and used for propaganda purposes.) 

Influenced in large part by Jimmy Smith, Mergia and the Walias merged the popular international sounds available in Ethiopia at the time with the traditional tunes that formed the foundation of most musicians’ repertoires. But for this LP, instead of playing the role of backing band, Mergia wanted four of his bandmates to contribute arrangements, so that the album would capture a spectrum of sounds with the instruments and groove positioned out front. 

Recording in one large room, the band spent two days laying down the songs, completing several of them in single takes. It was the most professional technical set-up they had used thus far, with modern studio facilities and quality instruments (Mergia was using Farfisa and Godwin organs at the time). Being that this record was predominantly instrumental—extremely rare among Ethiopian LPs—it’s notable that Tche Belew features a backing chorus. Interjecting brief phrases on a few songs, the trio of accomplished vocalists Aster Aweke, Getachew Kassa, and Tegest Abate are the only voices heard on the recording. In the aftermath of the LP’s release, the public’s response was strong and the LP and cassettes sold better than expected. 

While the band never travelled outside Addis Ababa, they performed at top hotels and played the presidential palace twice. The Walias’ relationship with the Derg regime was complex though, evidenced by the removal of one song from the record by government censors because it included mention of the previous government. The regime’s broad policy of violence and censorship—including a period called the Red Terror that featured genocide-level disappearances of students, activists and villagers and the indiscriminate imprisonment of journalists—ultimately resulted in half the band staying in the United States following their first tour outside Ethiopia in the early 1980s. Today the musicians remain scattered between Addis Ababa and Washington D.C. 

Decades later, Hailu Mergia was surprised to see the album fetching more than $4,000 at online auctions. The Walias had recorded the most famous and wide-reaching of all Ethiopian tunes from that era, “Musicawi Silt,” which was composed by the band's pianist Girma Beyene. Covered by bands from all over the world, “Musicawi Silt” and the rest of this long-awaited reissue have lived on among record collectors and older Ethiopians to this day. Now everyone has the chance to listen again—or for the first time—to this timeless pillar of Ethiopian popular music.

There is a musical moment of great significance in Jim Jarmusch's road movie Broken Flowers. The main character, Don, is going on a journey and has received a cassette with music. When he puts the cassette into the tape deck, the strange, deep and funky sounds of Ethiopian master Mulatu Astatke emerge from the speakers. Music like this has fascinated many listeners and the acclaimed series Ethiopiques, which has reached 29 volumes, speaks about the demand for Ethiopian sounds. 

There is still a lot of great music to discover and, fortunately, Brian Shimkovitz, who runs the blog and label Awesome Tapes from Africa, has unearthed one of the true gems of Ethiopian music: Tche Belew by Hailu Mergia and the Walias. As it is pointed out in the excellent liner notes, the album does not belong to the golden age of Ethiopian music, which is considered to be the period from the early 1960s to the mid- 1970s. However, the instrumental album, released in 1977, has become a true collector's item and it is easy to hear why. 

Bandleader, keyboardist and arranger Hailu Mergia gathered a strong group for the recording of the album, including saxophonists Moges Habte and Abebe Kassa, drummer Temare Haregu and special guest Mulatu Astetke on vibes. At the time, Mergia had been working the nightclub-scene in Addis Ababa and knew how to create funky and elegant sounds, but Tche Belew broadened the musical palette, with no less than four of the band members helping out with the arrangements to create a diverse canvas of sound. 

There are elements of jazz on the swaying, swinging rhythm of "Yikirta Lemminalehu" with Astatke's chiming vibes and walking bass patterns from bassist Melake Gabrie while "Lomi Tera-tera" is all wah-wah guitar, subtle percussion and spiraling arabesque organ figures from Mergia. 

Mergia was influenced by organist Jimmy Smith and there are traces of soul, blues, jazz and funk in the band's deep instrumental cuts, but all these genres are filtered through a specific Ethiopian sensibility, with the characteristic scale system playing an important role. It is also about the lush contrapuntal clarity and balance between the instruments. Especially the use of both organ and piano is successful, with the added power of the horns and a rhythm section that is both swinging and tight. Tche Belew shows how sophisticated funky music can be and it is an album that connoisseurs of Ethiopian music should not be without.

Though I’ve heard some late 70s cassettes that have blown my mind, I do believe that there are only three instrumental Ethiopian albums (that is: vinyl-only) recorded and released during what Francois Falcetto of the Ethiopiques series has termed “The Golden Seventies.” Two are by the ubiquitous Mulatu Astatke, and saw release on the Amha label. The first, Ethiopian Modern Instrumentals Hits, collected his 7? releases on the label while the second, Ethio-Jazz from 1974, contained previously unreleased, long-form compositions. The third is the record you see here, credited to Hailu Mergia and The Band Wallias but owing much to Astatke (featured, naturally, on the instrument he introduced to Ethiopia – the vibraphone). It saw release on Ali Abdella Kaifa’s self-named label.

As Falcetto points out on his excellent liner notes to Ethiopiques Vol. 4, there was not much of an instrumental tradition in Ethiopia until the advent of brass bands in the early part of the 20th century. Thus it’s not surprising that outside of the adventurous Astatke very few people attempted to record and release instrumental music in the short period during which the Amha, Kaifa and Phillips released a few hundred 45s and a handful of LPs in the country.

Why this album contains only one song like “Musical Silt” is ponderous. The rest of the album is enjoyable, equally funky and benign. But “Musical Silt,” the only song from the album ever reissued, is a beast. While some might call it dissonant, it’s beautifully modal, a perfect example of the Ethiopian qenet system tempered by the tuning of the Western instruments the musicians play. And the rhythms; each component of the ensemble plays in their own time signature. “The one,” which most fans of funk music so readily anticipate in a rolling groove, never sounds exactly like you’d expect it. But the song chugs along perfectly – it ends some four minutes in, but you wish it would run for hours. A hypnotic groove fo’ sho’.

Thus, while the song owes much to Astatke’s influence, we can’t cease without giving respect to the arranger and pianist Girme Beyene, whose tenure with the band Wallias continued as the band left Ethiopia and toured the USA in the early 80s. This song is arguably his masterpiece, which says quite a lot considering the quality of musicians he produced during his time in Ethiopia (including the awesome Alehmayehu Eshete).

Mulatu Astatke - 2009 - New York - Addis - London - The Story Of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975

Mulatu Astatke
New York - Addis - London - The Story Of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975

01. Yèkèrmo Sèw
02. I Faram Gami I Faram
03. Shagu
04. Emnete
05. Mulatu
06. Yègelé Tezeta
07. Asiyo Bellema
08. Ebo Lala
09. Fikratchin
10. Yefikir Tizita
11. Dèwèl
12. Yèkatit
13. Girl From Addis Ababa
14. Mascaram Setaba
15. Ené Alantchie Alnorem
16. Nétsanét
17. Kasalèfkut Hulu
18. Wubit
19. Lanchi Biye
20. Tezeta

1, 17, 20 are taken from the Amha Records LP "Ethiopian Modern Instrumentals Hits" (AELP10) 1972
2, 3, 15 are taken from the Worthy Records LP "Afro-Latin Soul" (W-1014) 1966
4, 14 are taken from the Worthy Records LP "Mulatu Of Ethiopia (W-1020) 1972
5 is taken from the Philips Ethiopia 45 "Fikratchin" (PH 7-106) 1971
6 is taken from the Amha Records 45 "Yebekagnale / Yegele Tezeta" (AE 160) 1969
7 is taken from the Amha Records 45 (AE 120) 1965
8 is taken from the Philips Ethiopia 45 (PH 7-101) 1970
9 is taken from the Philips Ethiopia 45 (PH 7-105) 1970
10 is taken from the Philips Ethiopia 45 (PH 7-103) 1970
11, 18, 19 are taken from the Amha Records LP "Ethio Jazz" (AELP 90) 1974
12 is taken from the Philips Ethiopia 45 "Yehagere Shitta" (PH 7-100) 1970
13 is taken from the Axum Records 45 "Che Belew / Wubit" (A-004) 1975
16 is taken from the Worthy Records LP "Afro-Latin Soul Vol. 2" (W-1015) 1966

Arranged as a retrospective of the formative work of Mulatu Astatke, the godfather of Ethio-jazz, a fusion of Ethiopian music and—you guessed it—jazz, The Story Of Ethio Jazz is 20 tracks ranging from two to six minutes outlining the development of the form over a 10-year period. Dominated by the vibraphone, Astatke’s signature instrument, the pieces are short, modal and are short on development, but heavy on mood.

That’s really what The Story Of Ethio Jazz tries to impart—a mood, a flavor for the genre. Many of the cuts here are a patois in that they don’t particularly feel like a developed style at all but instead a chunky primordial stew. It’s not your seamless Miles Davis fusion, it’s a more blunt and rash.

And it has its own charm in that way. These are certainly songs of development rather than final forms—this is basically what Astatke had in his vaults—and so it’s more of a piece to either introduce listeners to the basics of the form, or more likely, to give musicologists a record of the genre’s development. Either way, I’m for it.

This album?s subtitle, ?The Story of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975,? might give one pause. After all, it?s only the work of one man, vibes and keyboard player Mulatu Astatke, and no man is a genre, right? But it makes sense when you consider that Ethiopian music so prizes linguistic cleverness that there?s just not much of an orchestral or jazz heritage. Even at the height of Ethiopia?s golden age of pop music, which flourished during the waning years of King Haile Selassie?s reign, not many players played jazz of any stripe besides Astatke and saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya. And while Mekurya?s music simply transferred a traditional battle chant to the sax, Astatke developed a singular synthesis informed by a non-parochial appreciation for non-Ethiopian styles that was quite out of step with his milieu.

But then, Astatke was not your average Ethiopian. He was sent to England to study engineering, but turned out to be a natural musician. He fell for jazz, English style, at nightclubs like The Flamingo and Ronnie Scott?s, then tracked it to New York City, where he spent a few years playing in Latin bands and started evolving a fusion of jazz, Latin, and Ethiopian elements. When Astatke returned to Ethiopia in the late 60s he found plenty of opportunity to work as an arranger and musician behind the era?s great singers, which in turn yielded chances for him to record instrumental b-sides and a couple of LPs. But since instrumental music had no local constituency they were never terribly popular and his career, like nearly every Ethiopian musician?s, hit a wall in 1975 when a Marxist coup ushered in over a decade of martial law. But it gained a second wind in 1998 when Buda Musique devoted an entire volume of its Ethiopiques series his music. Collaborations with the Either/Orchestra and the Heliocentrics followed, and the few tracks of his music that ended up on the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch?s film Broken Flowers were most memorable thing about the movie. Even so, no one had pulled together Astatke?s NYC and London recordings with those from Ethiopia.

New York-Addis-London redresses that lack, and in doing so provides a broader perspective on Astatke?s music than Ethiopiques 4 even though they start with the same track. With its moody horn melody, throbbing electric piano, and terse r&b groove, ?Y?k?rmo S?w? is deeply eerie and impossible to forget. But the next track takes us back to New York, where Astatke worked mostly with Puerto Rican musicians. ?I Faram Gami I Faram? begins and ends with elephant-like trumpeting, but what falls in between is a seamless weave of salsa piano and Amharic singing. Even in 1966, when Astatke was just 23 and new to recording, he had a sound in mind that integrated Ethiopian melodies with Afro-Latin rhythms. His mallets and tropical sound effects hint at Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman, the vibrant grooves pretty Nuyorican, the melodies harder to place. But since New Yorkers didn?t quite grasp the pentatonic scales of Ethiopian music, although the trumpeter on ?Mascaram Setaba? comes close. Astatke?s concept didn?t quite gel until he took it back home, and even then it took time. New York-Addis-London includes some of his work singers. The track he crafted for Tlahoun Gessesse has a stripped-down Latin slink in its rhythm that agitates pleasingly against the horns? mournful riffs, but it?s the singer?s voice, chuckling one moment and imploring the next, that dominates. ?Yefikir Tezita,? an instrumental he composed for the b-side of another Gessesse song, brings that pentatonic Ethiopian melancholy into focus, but the rhythm is a little too crisp and simple. ?Y?katit,? recorded five years later, is a total integration, with thick, unhurried polyrhythms rolling under pulsing Wurlitzer piano, snaky flute, and a magnificently degenerate wah-wah guitar lead.

While Strut records has released New York-Addis-London, the man who put it together was Miles Cleret of Soundway Recordings. His liner notes, while not quite so obsessive as those for the Nigeria and Ghana Special releases, are lively, informative, and steeped in love for their subject, while reproductions of old LP sleeves and snapshots of the ever-dapper Astatke offer glimpses into a bygone time. Great stuff.

Mulatu Astatke - 1998 - Ethiopiques Vol. 4 - 1969-1974

Mulatu Astatke
Ethiopiques Vol. 4 - 1969-1974

01. Yèkèrmo Sèw 4:12
02. Mètché Dershé 3:56
03. Kasalèfkut Hulu 2:43
04. Tezeta 6:14
05. Yègellé Tezeta 3:17
06. Munayé 4:58
07. Gubèlyé 4:36
08. Asmarina 4:55
09. Yèkatit 3:55
10. Nètsanèt 5:33
11. Tezetayé Antchi Lidj 6:01
12. Sabyé 5:24
13. Ené Alantchi Alnorem 4:59
14. Dèwèl 4:14

Alto Saxophone – Antonio  (tracks: 1 to 6)
Bass – Giovanni Rico (tracks: 7 to 13), Haylu "Zihon" Kèbbèdè (tracks: 1 to 6), Ivo (tracks: 1 to 6)
Drums – Girma Zèmaryam (tracks: 1 to 6), Tèmarè Harègu (tracks: 7 to 13), Tesfayé "Hodo" Mèkonnen (tracks: 1 to 6)
Flute – Fèqadu Amdé-Mesqel (tracks: 7 to 13)
Guitar – Andrew Wilson (tracks: 6 to 13), Tèklè "Huket" Adhanom (tracks: 1 to 5)
Keyboards – Mulatu (tracks: 7 to 13)
Organ, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Mulatu (tracks: 1 to 6)
Tenor Saxophone – Fèqadu Amdé-Mesqel, Mogus Habte (tracks: 7 to 13)
Tenor Saxophone [First Tenor Sax] – Tesfa-Maryam Kidané (tracks: 1 to 6)
Trumpet – Fèllèqè Kidané (tracks: 5), Yohannès Tèkolla (tracks: 7 to 13)
Upright Piano – Girma Bèyènè (tracks: 1 to 6)

Tracks 1 through 6 issued June 1972 on the LP "Ethiopian Modern Instrumental Hits" (AELP 10). (Tracks 1, 2 & 5 originally released in 1969).
Tracks 7 through 13 originally released in September 1972 on the LP "Yekatit - Ethio Jazz / Mulatu Astatke featuring Fekade Amde Meskel" (AELP 90).
Track 14 originally released in the USA in 1972 on the LP "Mulatu of Ethiopia" and recorded with Latin-American musicians, including several of Mongo Santamaria's sidemen.

To some, the term "Ethiopian jazz" might seem impossible; after all, it's a very American form. But what's truly surprising isn't the fact that these musicians play jazz so well, but the range of jazz they manage, from the George Benson-ish guitar workout of "Munaye" to the twisting sax of "Tezeta." Really, though, it's more Jimmy Smith than Duke Ellington in its aim (although Ellington is on the cover, on stage with Mulatu Astatke, the bandleader behind all these selections). The grooves often smoke rather than swing, with some fiery drumming, most notably on "Yekermo Sew," and throughout the guitar is very much to the fore as a rhythm instrument. Perhaps the most interesting cut, however, is "Yekatit," from 1974, which is Astatke's tribute to the burgeoning revolution which would oust Emperor Haile Sellassie. Some of these pieces, certainly "Dewel," has seen U.S. release before; the track appeared in 1972 on Mulatu of Ethiopia, which was Astatke's third American LP, showing that jazz aficionados, at least, had an appreciation for what he was achieving in the horn of Africa. Given that many of his musicians had graduated from police and military bands, they knew their instruments well, and had plenty of practice time, which shows in the often inventive solos that dot the tracks. Varied, occasionally lyrical, but interesting throughout, this shines a fabulous spotlight on a hidden corner of jazz.

Mulatu Astatke Featuring Fekade Amde Maskal - 1974 - Ethio Jazz

Mulatu Astatke Featuring Fekade Amde Maskal 
Ethio Jazz 

01. Dèwèl
02. Yèkèrmo Sèw
03. Gubèlyé
04. Asmarina
05. Yèkatit
06. Nètsanèt
07. Tezetayé Antchi Lidj
08. Sabyé
09. Ené Alantchi Alnorem

Mulatu Astatke_keyboards
Fekade Amde Maskal_tenor saxophone, flute
Mogus Habté_tenor saxophone
Yohannes Tèkolla_trumpet
Andrew Wilson_guitar
Giovanni Rico_bass
Tèmarè Harègu_drums

Ethio Jazz was originally released as Yekatit Ethio-Jazz in 1974 on Ethiopian label, Amha Records, bringing together various tracks recorded by Mulatu Astatke between 1969 and 1974. Formed at Boston's Berklee College of Music during the sixties, Mulatu Astatke is a multi-instrumentalist, founder of the Ethio Jazz genre, the first to combine traditional ethiopian sound with Jazz & Latin music. Indeed, in 1966, Mulatu & His Quintet have recorded in New York City, two Afro-Cuban Jazz albums (Afro-Latin Soul, Volumes 1 & 2), which lead him to introduce latin & western instruments in the popular Ethiopian music. Mulatu has gained an international recognition many years later, first  thanks to the Parisian label Buda Musique, which selected some of his best songs included in the volume 4 from the Éthiopiques compilation series, a volume entirely devoted to him (Éthiopiques Volume 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, 1969–1974). Secondly in US, three of his compositions including Yèkèrmo Sèw & Gubèlyé, were selected for the Broken Flowers Original Soundtrack (2005), directed by Jim Jarmusch. At last, some great names of Hip-Hop have sampled his songs such as Nas, Cut Chemist of Jurassic 5, Quantic or Madlib. 

Mulatu Astatke - 1972 - Mulatu of Ethiopia

Mulatu Astatke 
Mulatu of Ethiopia

01. Mulatu 5:00
02. Mascaram Setaba 2:40
03. Dewel 4:00
04. Kulunmanqueleshi 2:05
05. Kasalefkut-Hulu 2:25
06. Munaye 3:15
07. Chifara 7:00

Piano, Vibes - Mulatu Astatke
Bass – Chuck Rainey, Israel "Cachao" Lopez
Percussion – Marty Sheller
Drums – Bernard Purdie, Don Alias
Electric Bass – Eddie "Gua-Gua" Riviera
Featuring, Bongos, Congas – Armando Peraza
Flute – Roger Glenn
Guitar – Eric Gale
Percussion – Angel Allende
Piano, Electric Piano – Earl Neal Creque
Shekere – Julito Collazo
Tenor Saxophone – Grant Reed, Stanley Turrentine
Trumpet – Lou Soloff
Trumpet, Percussion – Ray Maldonado

Note: I am not sure about the musicians on the album, these names were written on the cassette tape a friend gave me back in the late 80's, I've always assumed that this was the lineup, but I have never been able to find any confirmation of it... Anyone?

By 1972, Ethiopian multi-instrumentalist Mulatu Astatke was twenty-nine, and had already spent time stud ing music in London, Boston and New York. This included spells at two prestigious institutions, London’s Trinity College of Music, Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The time he spent there, influenced and shaped Mulatu Astatke as a musician. This included the two albums he released in 1966, Afro-Latin Soul, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Six years passed before Mulatu Astatke returned with his third album Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which was recently rereleased by Strut Records. It was a very different album, and was his first album of Ethio-jazz from the man who nowadays, is regarded as the genre’s founding father, Mulatu Astatke.

He was born in the city of Jimma, in south-western Ethiopia, on ‘19th’ December 1943. Growing up, Mulatu Astatke developed a love of music, and over the next few years, learnt to play a variety of instruments. This included the vibraphone, conga drums, percussion, keyboards and organ. Mulatu Astatke developed into a talented multi-instrumentalist. It looked as if Mulatu Astatke would embark upon a career in music. Suddenly, though, any dreams Mulatu Astatke had of embarking upon a career in music were dashed.
In the late-fifties,Mulatu Astatke’s family sent him to Wales study engineering. That was the plan. Instead, Mulatu Astatke enrolled at Lindisfarne College near Wrexham which prepared him for his studies in London, New York and Boston. After leaving Mulatu Astatke enrolled at Trinity College of Music, where he spent the next few years studying towards a degree in music. Having graduated, Mulatu Astatke began collaborating with jazz singer and percussionist Frank Holder. The pair formed a fruitful partnership, and for a while, Mulatu Astatke was part of London’s jazz scene. Eventually though, Mulatu Astatke decided to head stateside, where he would continue his studies and career.
Next stop for Mulatu Astatke was Boston, and the prestigious Berklee College of Music. He became the first African student to enrol and study at Berklee College of Music. For the next few years, Mulatu Astatke studied the vibraphone and percussion. He remembers: “ I learnt the technical aspects of jazz and gained a beautiful understanding of many different types of music. That’s where I got my tools. Berklee really shook me up.” His spell at Berklee College of Music proved an important period in Mulatu Astatke’s career. So did a journey to New York.
While studying in Boston, Mulatu Astatke would often travel to New York to play gigs, and other times, to watch concerts at venues like The Cheetah, The Palladium and The Village Gate. It was during one of these journeys to the Big Apple that Mulatu Astatke met producer Gil Snapper for the first time. “Gil was a nice and very interesting guy. He produced music and worked with all kinds of musicians.” This would eventually include Mulatu Astatke.
After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Mulatu Astatke moved to New York and continued his studies. It was during this period that Mulatu Astatke recorded two albums for Gil Snapper’s Worthy label.
The first album was Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 which found Mulatu Astatke taking African music in a new direction. Gil Snapper describes what was at the heart of this new sound on the sleeve-notes to Afro- Latin Soul Volume 1: “he has taken the ancient five-tone scales of Asia and Africa and woven them into something unique and exciting; a mixture of three cultures, Ethiopian, Puerto Rican and American.” This new and innovative sound made its debut on Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1, which was an album of instrumentals that was released in 1966. It marked the debut of Mulatu Astatke and would influence the future direction of Ethiopian music.
Up until Mulatu Astatke released Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 in 1966, Ethiopian musicians neither used congas nor bongos on when recording popular music. This would change when musicians back home in Ethiopia heard Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 and its followup. Later in 1966, Mulatu Astatke returned with his sophomore album, Afro-Latin Soul Volume 2. Stylistically, it was similar to his genre-melting debut album. It mostly featured instrumentals, apart from I Faram Gami I Faram where Mulatu Astatke sings in Spanish. Mostly, though, Mulatu Astatke’s vibes are accompanied by a piano and conga drums that ads Latin rhythms. While this was regarded as new and innovative back home in Ethiopia, some critics thought that Mulatu Astatke’s music was similar to many other Latin-jazz records released during the mid-sixties. However, by the time Mulatu Astatke returned with his third album, he would’ve founded a new musical genre. 
As the sixties gave way to the seventies, Mulatu Astatke’s music began to change. This was a conscious decision, and one that was necessary. Mulatu Astatke needed and wanted to develop his own sound, and one that stood out from the crowd.
Mulatu Astatke had decided to develop the sound that had featured on Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 and 2. To this, Mulatu Astatke decided to add elements of funk and Azmari chik-chikka rhythms to his existing sound. Gradually, this new sound began to take shape. The next step was to return to the studio, and record an album that showcased Mulatu Astatke’s new sound.
By 1972, Mulatu Astatke had gained the necessary skills to fuse the disparate musical genres to create Ethio-jazz. It had taken time and perseverance. Now the twenty-nine year old was ready to return to the studio to record his long-awaited third album, Mulatu Of Ethiopa.
Joining Mulatu Astatke at a studio in downtown Manhattan, were producer Gil Snapper and the band that would record eventually record Mulatu Of Ethiopa. Before that, Mulatu Astatke put his multitalented band through their paces. The band featured some of the Big Apple’s top Latin session musicians and several young, up-and-coming jazz musicians. They would spend the next four weeks rehearsing, and honing Mulatu Astatke’s new sound. He remembers that: “it took them a while to get the right feeling in the music.” Eventually, the band were ready to record what would become a landmark album, Mulatu Of Ethiopa.
When Mulatu Astatke and his band entered the studio, they recorded seven tracks that showcased his new sound. These tracks became Mulatu Of Ethiopa, where Mulatu Astatke and his band took as their starting point the Ethiopian five tonal scale. To the Pentatonic scale, Mulatu Astatke and his band added elements of jazz and Afro-American soul. This new and innovative musical fusion was christened Ethiojazz, and Mulatu Astatke was its founding father.
The release of Mulatu Of Ethiopa was a turning point in Mulatu Astatke’s career. After spending several years searching for his own sound, Mulatu Astatke had eventually settled on what would become his trademark sound, Ethio-jazz. It’s the sound that eventually Mulatu Astatke would become famous for. 
While Mulatu Astatke released his first album of Ethio-jazz in 1972, Mulatu Of Ethiopa wasn’t a hugely successful album, it influenced a generation of Ethiopian musicians. They adopted the new Ethio-jazz sound. For the second time in his career, Mulatu Astatke was influencing Ethiopian musicians from afar. At least his fellow countrymen understood the importance of this groundbreaking album. It was until much later that record collectors discovered Mulatu Of Ethiopa, and realised just how important, influential and innovative an album it was. Sadly, by then, Mulatu Of Ethiopa was out of print, and very few original copies of the album were still available. Occasionally, record collectors chance upon a copy of Mulatu Of Ethiopa, and picked it up in the bargain bins. Mostly though, copies of Mulatu Of Ethiopa were changing hands for large sums of money. What had once been a £200 album was changing hands for upwards of £600. This was a reflection of the importance of Mulatu Of Ethiopa, which was the first album of Ethio-jazz, from the genre’s founding father, Mulatu Astatke. 
Opening the stereo mix of Mulatu Of Ethiopa is Mulatu, which straight away, showcases the new Ethiojazz sound. It’s a fusion of the music of two countries, Ethiopia and Mulatu Astatke’s adopted home of America. Sharp stabs of braying horns leave space for the rhythm section who lock down the groove.
They’re joined by a wah-wah guitar, before the sultry horns flow across arrangement. It’s joined by glistening, shimmering vibes, percussion and later, a fluttering flute. Meanwhile, the rhythm section have locked down the tightest of grooves, as the blazing horns are played with power and passion. They join the vibes and wah-wah guitar in playing leading roles in the sound and success of Mulatu. Not only is it a beautiful, melodic and memorable example of Ethio-jazz, but it’s funky and soulful.
Just a pensive bass and then percusion open Mascaram Setaba before a wah-wah guitar, vibes and keyboards combine. By then, the arrangement is shuffling ruefully and cinematically along. Soon, a flute flutters high above the arrangement, as the bass provides the heartbeat. It joins with percussion, vibes and tough sounding keyboards, and they play their part in rueful, cinematic track that shuffles along as Mulatu Astatqe seamlessly combine elements of jazz, funk, fusion and Latin music.
Vibes shimmer,  while horns head in the direction of free jazz on Dewel. Meanwhile, the rhythm section play with the same power and urgency as the horns. After nearly a minute, a calm descends as the rhythm section locks into a groove with the keyboards and horns. Before long, the rhythm and horn sections play with urgency, while the vibes, keyboards and percussion explore the groove. They then take charge, after the arrangement has been stripped bare. It skips along, as cymbals play. Soon, the rhythm and horn section return, but still the vibes, keyboards and percussion continue to explore the groove, as the arrangement almost dances along and right through to the closing notes continues to captivate.
The rhythm section, wah-wah guitar and vibes are panned right and create a funky a backdrop on Kulunmanqueleshi. It sounds as if it belongs on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Soon, they’re joined by a Freddie Hubbard inspired flute and percussion are added. Later, the arrangement takes on a tougher, edgier sound. Partly, this comes courtesy of the vibes, percussion and to some extent, the wah-wah guitar. They’re play their part in what sounds like a lost track from a classic Blaxploitation soundtrack.
Slow and spacious describes the arrangement to Kasalefkut-Hulu as the rhythm section play slowly and deliberately, as the rolling bass is joined by vibes, keyboards and slow, rasping horns. Meanwhile, the drums create mesmeric beat, while the horns play a starring role, as the tempo quickens. The horns play in unison, while the rolling bass plays around the braying, ruminative horns. They play a leading role in this beautiful, emotive track that tugs at the heartstrings, as Mulatu Astatqe and his band reach new heights.
Although it’s just the rhythm section and wah-wah guitar that open Munaye, soon, the rest of the band make their presence felt. Especially the blazing, braying horns which soar above the rest of the arrangement. Their playing is powerful and inventive, as the wah-wah guitar and rhythm section create a funky backdrop. However, it’s the horns that are stealing the show, until all of sudden, they drop out at 2.22. This allows the rhythm section and guitar to showcase their skills. Soon, though, the horns sashay in, but occasionally leave space that the drums fill. Meanwhile the wah-wah guitar ploughs a lone furrow in the name of funk, before this genre-melting track reaches a crescendo.
Chifara which closes Mulatu Of Ethiopia, is the longest track on the album. It’s just over seven minutes long, which allows Mulatu Astatqe and his band to stretch their legs. A wah-wah guitar, keyboards and pounding drums join with the probing bass and braying horns. The horns are played slowly, but soon, with a degree of urgency. So are the keyboards, while the rhythm section provide the pulsating heartbeat. Later, a flute flutters above the arrangement as the rest of the band jam. By then, it’s obvious that the four weeks the band spent practising before recording began was time well spent. Not only does the band play with freedom and fluidity, but their playing is inventive. Especially when searing, growling horns embark on one last solo. Again, they’re at their blistering solo plays an important part in this Ethio-jazz epic.
For Mulatu Astatke, Mulatu Of Ethiopia was a game-changer of an album. At last, after years of searching for his own sound, Mulatu Astatke had discovered his own unique sound. This Mulatu Astatke called Ethio-jazz. It was a genre that influenced a generation of Ethiopian musicians when they heard this groundbreaking album. Forty-five years later, and Mulatu Of Ethiopia continues to influence a new generation of musicians.
Similarly, Mulatu Of Ethiopia is an album that continues to be discovered by record buyers. Sadly, it’s long been out of print and has never been officially reissued since then. That was until Strut Records reissued Mulatu Of Ethiopia on CD, triple vinyl and digital download. The CD version features both the stereo and mono mixes of Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which offers interesting comparisons. Obviously, the stereo mix has a much wider and detailed soundstage. Then with the vinyl version of Mulatu Of Ethiopia, there’s the stereo and mono versions, plus a selection of out-takes from the sessions. This offers a fascinating insight into the recording of the original Ethio-jazz classic.
While other artists would release Ethio-jazz classics, Mulatu Astatke had set the bar high for those that followed in his footsteps. Their albums were compared to Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which isn’t just as Ethiojazz classic, but a jazz classic. It’s also an album that will appeal to anyone likes their music funky and soulful. However, Mulatu Of Ethiopia was a career defining album for Mulatu Astatke, the founding father of Ethio-jazz.