The acclaimed father of Ethio-jazz who has fans as varied as Damian Alban, K’Naan, Nas and Damian Marley releases his first solo album in over 20 years and it’s a belter.
As Gilles Peterson said on his BBC Radio 1 show this week, “God bless Strut”. Well I think we know what he means. Not only did he play a track from the recent Bob Blank compilation (Bob Blank: The Blank Generation (Blank Tapes NYC 1975-1985)) he interviewed Somalian MC K’Naan and got onto the subject of why he’s using Mulatu samples (as are Nas and Damien Marley) amongst other things (and yet another great show by GP this year).
Well, it goes without saying that Mulatu Astatke is one of his musical heroes who is right up there will Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Fela Kuti. So, not the best known of the quartet but Astake’s reputation hasn’t stopped growing since his music featuring on the soundtrack to the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers (see review HERE), being featured in the Ethiopiques album series and the 10″ re-issue on Miles Claret’s Soundway label in 2005 (noting that Soundway was included on the GP “God bless” tribute).
So with a new generation of fans, Strut went onto producer the Mulatu Astatke / The Heliocentrics‘ Inspiration Information Vol. 3 and towards the end of last year, the definite Mulatu Astatke compilation New York – Addis – London : The Story of Ethio Jazz 1965 – 1975.
This new album was recorded by members of the Either/Orchestra in Boston, Addis and members of the Heliocentrics in London last November. But you could never tell as the 10 tracks are just beautiful individual pieces yet part of a single Steps Ahead.
Astatke has taken influences from all his travels from ‘The Way To Nice’, a recent composition from the tour bus of recent gigs in France, to ‘Green Africa’. There’s some surprises as ‘Mulatu’s Mood’ is re-worked in a Afro highlife war with the kora (for some ‘modern’ West African highlife on Soundway, see HERE).
Getting back to Peterson, he’s already played ‘Green Africa’ and ‘The Way To Nice’ on his shows earlier this year but and I thought they were good but he could have picked any as its superb (even the odd Sun Ra-ish ‘Derashe’ – inspired by “traditional diminishing scales of the Derashe people of Southern Ethiopia”).
From start, ‘Radcliffe’ (named after the Radcliffe Institue in Boston where the original score is now framed on the wall) to the Miles/MJQ calm of the closing track, ‘Motherland’, this album is a must have and even better than that, he’s back on tour this year with some dates specifically with The Heliocentrics that’s starting tonight!
Mar 26 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Ghent, Belgium Ghent, Belgium @ Minnemeers
Mar 27 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Amsterdam, Holland Amsterdam, Holland @ Paradiso
Mar 28 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Cologne, Germany Cologne, Germany @ Luxor
Mar 30 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Frankfurt, Germany Frankfurt, Germany @ Sinkkasten
Apr 1 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Berlin Germany Berlin Germany @ Lido
Apr 4 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Helsinki, Finland Helsinki, Finland @ Kulttuuroitalo
Apr 8 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Florence, Italy Florence, Italy @ Auditorium Flog
Apr 9 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Rome, Italy Rome @ Circolo degli Artisti
Apr 10 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Geneva, Switzerland Electron Festival @ L’Alhambra Theatre
Apr 11 Heliocentrics/Mulatu European Tour Paris, France Paris, France @ Casino Nouveau
May 20 Heliocentrics/Mulatu London, England London, England @ Koko
Reviewed: Mulatu Astatke – Mulatu Steps Ahead (Strut) Cat. No. STRUT056CD (CD/2xLP) Release date: 29th March 2010
1. Radcliffe (7:56)
2. Green Africa (5:12)
3. The Way To Nice (5:08)
4. Assosa (2:39)
5. I Faram Gami I Faram (5:32)
6. Mulutu’s Mood (5:56)
7. Ethio Blues (7:00)
8. Boogaloo (5:16)
9. Motherland (4:26)
10. Derashe (digital bonus track) (4:09)
Gilles Peterson :: 24th March 2010 :: K’Naan In Conversation
Gladys Knight & The Pips — It’s A Better Than Good Time (Walter Gibbons Mix) (Strut)
K’naan — America feat Mos Def (Octone)
Nas and Damien Marley — As We Enter (Island Def Jam)
J.Period & K’NAAN — Africa (Messengers remix) (Truelements Music)
J.Period & K’NAAN — Shot The Sheriff (Messengers remix)(Truelements Music)
J.Period & K’NAAN — Relationships Lay (Messengers remix) (Truelements Music)