Many years ago, when I first listened to the Ethopiques series, I was baffled by the musical quality, and the incredibly compelling power of the music, with long lyrical themes and hypnotic repetitive and highly danceable rhythms. The series gave a historical overview of Ethiopian jazz, with the ones with Mulatu Astatqe being my favorite.
The genre also captivated the attention of Western musicians, with Russ Gershon's EitherOrchestra releasing a double live CD with Mulatu Astatqe on the same series. Saxophonist Michael Blake also covered an Astatqe tune on his "Elevated" CD, called "Addis Abeba". The sounds of Ethiopian jazz also resonate in the various "Angles" albums, led by Martin Küchen.
The album under review here is also easy to recommend. The musician is tenor saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria, born in 1938, and someone who evolved in parallel to free jazz, without knowing about Ayler or Ornette Coleman, creating his own breed of improvised music.
In 2006; the Dutch band The Ex invited him for a joint album, which sounds OK but nothing more, with too much emphasis on the rock or punk sound of the Europeans.
Not so on this album, which is superior on every level. First of all, the band is bigger and consists of better musicians, including Arnold de Boer on trumpet, Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor on guitar, Katherina Bornefeld on drums, Xavier Charles on clarinet, Ken Vandermark on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Brodie West on alto saxophone, Joost Buis and Wolter Wierbos on trombone, and Colin McLean on bass.
Second, because of this, the sound is full, warm, accessible and guaranteed to suck you in and keep you captivated till the last note has died out.
Third, the music itself is mainly the Ethopian real compositions, with The Ex just adding support rather than determining the sound, or forcing the saxophonist to play on the simpler rock base.
As I said : easy to recommend : great tunes, great playing, great fun.