A few years ago, a friend of mine bought me this record for my birthday. My friend knew I had never heard of Mulatu Astatke and his Ethiopian Quintet, but because she used to live with me, knew all about my love for Jazz, Mexicali Brass, Latin Jazz and Afro Funk. In hindsight, she couldn’t really go wrong with this gift, it’s obvious that I would love it and with no surprise at all, I instantly fell in love with this album.
Mulatu Astatke, who was born in 1943 in Ethiopia, is known as the father of Ethio-Jazz. His album, Afro-Latin Soul was recorded in Brooklyn, NYC and was released in 1966 on Worthy Records. This album is almost a 50 year old creation, which speaks volumes to its quality and significance and to the fact that it can still be enjoyed today. If you’ve seen Jim Jarmusch’s film Broken Flowers starring Bill Murray, you’ll be a bit familiar with Mr. Astatke and his Ethiopian Quintet, as their music is found on the majority of the soundtrack and even features three songs off Afro-Latin Soul. I especially like the album art of the record, it’s simple yet eye catching and the informative commentary found on the back of the record sleeve is short and sweet!
“[…] Mulatu a multi-talented musician, composer and arranger, has created a new sound “Afro-Latin Soul”. He has taken the ancient five-tone scale of Asia and Africa and woven them into something unique and exciting; a mixture of three cultures, Ethiopian, Puerto Rican and American.
Mulatu has brought to America a pulsating dance, called the “Skista”. Wherever he plays the “Skista”, it becomes an immediate craze. Louis Rodriguez, the singer, gives a magnificent interpretation in Spanish of an Ethiopian Skista with “I Faram Gami I Faram”.
During the Session, Mulatu masterfully jumps from vibes to piano to drums. Rudy Houston switches from piano to trumpet to give a soul-stirring rendition of a haunting melody. Felix Torres and John Perez, keep up an exciting conga and bongo background along with the real boss bass of Robert Cuadrado and the tremendous tymbali work of Tony Pearson.
This album is one you will always treasure.
So if you’re like me and felt genuinely offended by this week’s Montreal Weather Network temperature predictions, I have one thing to suggest as a means to cope with the cold – play this gem of an album while drinking a big ass glass of red wine at the end of a long day and enjoy this warm creation indoors!
I Faram Gami I Faram, Mulatu’s Hideaway and A Kiss Before Dawn are my favorites.
1. I Faram Gami I Faram
2. Mascaram Setaba
4. One For Buzayhew
5. Alone in the Crowd
2. Mulatu’s Hideaway
4. A Kiss Before Dawn
5. Playboy Cha Cha