Sunday, 20 September 2020

Mulatu Astatke + Black Jesus Experience ‎– To Know Without Knowing (2019)

Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul, Folk, World, & Country
Fomat: CD, Vinyl
Label: Agogo Records

1.   Mulatu
2.   Ambassa Lemdi
3.   Kulun Mankwaleshi
4.   Living On Stolen Land
5.   To Know Without Knowing
6.   Lijay
7.   Blue Light
8.   Mascaram Setaba
9.   A Chance To Give

Arranged By – Ian Dixon, Peter Harper
Bass – Richard Rose 
Chorus – Addisalem Taye, Corry Harper, Mearge Abate
Congas, Shekere – Olugbade Okunade
Drums – James Davies
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Ian Dixon
Flute – Dominique Chaseling
Grand Piano – Bob Sedergreen
Guitar – Robbie Belchamber
Guitar, Chorus – Zac Lister
Masinko – Haftu Reda
MC – Elf Transporte, Liam 'Monk' Monkhouse
Shaker, Wood Block – Kahan Harper
Tenor Saxophone – Peter Harper
Vibraphone, Congas, Electric Piano – Mulatu Astatke
Vocals – Enushu Taye, Vida Sunshine
Producer – Ian Dixon, Peter Harper

Mulatu Astatke is undoubtedly the most important and well-known proponent of Ethio-Jazz: a branch of jazz that incorporates elements of traditional Ethiopian music. Not only a great composer, Astatke plays keyboards and a wide range of percussive instruments of which many are unique to Ethiopia. He developed his style of jazz while studying in Britain and America in the 1960s and took his music back with him to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, during a brief period of extraordinary musical creativity in his home country, just before it was mostly suppressed by a series of intolerant governments. Astatke is one of the stars of a landmark series of compilation albums released in the 1990s entitled Éthiopiques, of which there were ultimately 30 volumes, that was the sole means whereby the music of Ethiopia’s golden age first became known to the general public outside of Ethiopia.

The Black Jesus Experience are a truly cosmopolitan group of musicians based in Melbourne: a city that can lay claim to being one of the most vibrant in the world, and certainly the Antipodes, for contemporary jazz. The group’s primary musical influence is Ethio-Jazz, so Mulatu Astatke is their ideal collaborator, but the music has a more extensive range of influences that includes hip-hop and funk. The lead saxophonist and co-founder of the eight-piece band is Peter Harper who was introduced to Ethiopian music by his father, a music teacher for the Ethiopian Navy band in the 1960s. They are most notable for their live performances, which includes a performance at the Glastonbury Festival in 2017. It is a shame for audiences in the UK and elsewhere that they aren’t able to tour their latest album given current circumstances.

To Know Without Knowing is the second studio collaboration of The Black Jesus Experience and Mulatu Astatke and is the culmination of over a decade of having performed together. It is a varied album. Only the song Kulun Mankwaleshi is very much like the type of Ethio-Jazz that can be heard on the Éthiopiques compilations. The vocals on this track comes from Enushu Taye, the band’s co-leader and principal singer who in 1992 was forced to leave Ethiopia where she’d sung for her local community, before eventually emigrating to Melbourne. The vocals on the album are shared with the Zimbabwean/Australian MC, Mr. Monk (Liam Monkhouse), whose style of rap is of the type prevalent across modern-day Africa and whose lyrics emphasise tolerance, consciousness and community.

The first track on the album is Mulatu, a tribute to Astatke without whom there would be no Ethio-Jazz, which rhythm is most prominent in the harmonious horns that lead the first half of the track before Mr. Monk’s rapping provides the lyrics. There is a taste of West Africa on the second track, Ambassa Lemhi, where Taye weaves her voice around the trumpet and sounds almost like the great Oumou Sangare. Taye mostly sings in Amharic except on songs such as Living On Stolen Land where she sings in English.

The mix of international musical influences is generally seamless and unforced throughout the album. The title track, To Know Without Knowing, moves from one style to another, where it features in turn Taye’s Ethiopian vocals, Mr. Monk’s rap and lilting horns and piano. The single Lijay, a paean to motherly love, is underlaid by a lilting African reggae with Taye and Mr. Monk swapping the microphone between them until midway through the song where it settles into a chugging rhythm conducive to a dancing audience. Blue Light begins with Mr. Monk’s rap before becoming perhaps the most conventionally jazz track on the album. The album ends with two tracks, Mascaram Setaba and A Chance To Give, that would be ideal for swaying to at an open air festival on a lazy hot sunny day.

There is much on this album for the enthusiast of Ethio-Jazz to enjoy, but much else for fans of jazz and other forms of global music. To Know Without Knowing and its collaboration between Mulatu Astatke and The Black Jesus Experience are a good fit for Agogo Records, a Hanover-based record label that features danceable music of all styles from around the world.
Graham Spry / London Jazz News

Ultramarine ‎– United Kingdoms (1993)

Genre: Electronic
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Blanco Y Negro

01.   Source
02.   Kingdom
03.   Queen Of The Moon
04.   Prince Rock
05.   Happy Land
06.   Urf
07.   English Heritage
08.   Instant Kitten
09.   The Badger
10.   Hooter
11.   Dizzy Fox
12.   No Time

Accordion – Jim Rattigan
Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Programmed By – Ian Cooper
Bass, Keyboards, Programmed By – Paul Hammond
Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo Flute, Soprano Saxophone – Jimmy Hastings
Hammond Organ – Simon Kay 
Additional Percussion – Paul Johnson 
Trumpet, Harmonica – Phil James
Violin – Robert Atchison
Vocals – Robert Wyatt
Producer – Ultramarine

La Mecánica Popular ‎– La Mecánica Popular (2012)

Genre: Latin, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Names You Can Trust, Perumusic Records

1.   La Paz Del Freak
2.   Ella Le Decia
3.   Guajiro
4.   Se Que Me Olvidaste
5.   Arbol
6.   Muy Distinto
Bonus Tracks
7.   Milagro
8.   La Tragaespadas
9.   Se Que Me Olvidaste (Alternate Version)

Bass – Abraham Saenz, Julio Zavala
Bongos – Louis Bauzo 
Congas – Gerome Goldsmith, Javier Ponte
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Ernesto Lucar
Lead Vocals – Joselo Samaniego, Joy Hanson
Piano – Pablo Mayor, Ricardo Canales
Synthesizer – Yvonne Ubillus
Synthesizer, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Efraín Rozas
Music By, Lyrics By – Efraín Rozas
Producer – Efraín Rozas

La Mecanica Popular, una agrupación ecléctica asentada en la ciudad de New York que interpreta -segun su terminologia- Salsa Psicodélica,  nos presenta su debut para el sello Names You Can Trust.  El octeto, nacido en el 2011 despues del encuentro de musicos peruanos, colombianos, venezolanos y estadounidenses, presenta un sonido unico, con fuertes y profundas raices en la salsa hecha popular en New York desde finales de la decada del 6o del siglo pasado. Los toques psicodélicos son añadidos por el sintetizador, interpretado por Yvonne Ubillus, y los riffs de guitarra al estilo de la cumbia chicha peruana. 
El album, el cual esta compuesto por 9 piezas escritas por su director y vocalista , el peruano Efrain Rozas, conto con la producción de Rafael “Xuxi” Lazzaro, quien trabajara con la estrella dominicana Juan Luis Guerra. 
Destacamos títulos como Muy Distinto, una explosiva descarga, así como Se Que Me Olvidaste, un bolero -aqui presente en dos versiones. Milagro una salsa mid tempo con importantes solos de Ernesto Lucar y Ismael Baiz en la guitarra y los timbales respectivamente. Ella Lo Decía es un son montuno donde se destaca su director Rozas en el solo de piano, mientras el bajista Alejandro Haaker tiene una destaca actuación en el numero Guajiro. 
La Mecanica Popular logra un debut inigualable, la elección de canciones así como los arreglos y cada uno de los instrumentistas se merecen la mejor calificación. Ojalá mas artistas siguieran su ejemplo. Musica sin concesiones y con una fuerte convicción de las propias ideas.