Ethio-jazz icon Mulatu Astatke will release a brand new studio album on March 29, Mulatu Steps Ahead.
It finds the veteran pianist and arranger exploring new directions in the fusion of Western jazz and Ethiopian modes, a natural development of the innovative, intoxicating sound that he pioneered in the 60s and 70s. Tracks were recorded with personnel from Boston’s Either/Or Orchestra, with further contributions from traditional Ethiopian musicians in Addis, members of The Heliocentrics, and some of the UK’s finest jazz and African players.
Opening piece ‘Radcliffe’ was composed specifically for the Radcliffe Institute during Mulatu’s time lecturing at Harvard, while ‘The Way to Nice’ was written and arranged while on the move for his recent French tour – “With this track,” he explains, “You are travelling on a long journey, talking and thinking. It was inspired by the many beautiful places on the coast road around Nice.”
‘Assosa’ is based on traditional music from the Assosa tribes in North-Western Ethiopia, and ‘Mulatu’s Mood’ re-imagines a ‘90s composition as a swinging highlife number. ‘Boogaloo’ and ‘I Faram Gami I Faram’ are fleshed out versions of Mulatu classics, and bonus digital track ‘Derashe’ riffs on the traditional diminishing scales of the Derashe people of Southern Ethiopia, a musical technique that would later feature in the classical compositions of Debussy and the jazz of Charlie Parker. “Many debate how this music developed,” says Mulatu, “But the Derashe have played these scales for centuries. It is an untold story.”
Mulatu Steps Ahead will be released by Strut Records, who also put out Mulatu’s excellent Inspiration Information collaboration with The Heliocentrics, and the recent compilation New York * Addis * London. Mulatu will be touring the album globally from March 2010, including dates with The Heliocentrics.
2. Green Africa
3. The Way to Nice
5. I Faram Gami A Faram
6. Mulatu’s Mood
7. Ethio Blues
Bonus digital track: Derashe