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Jay Danley: Ethio Jazz Volume One

Anya Wassenberg By

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Complex rhythms and relentless grooves are what set music from the so-called golden era of Ethiopian jazz apart, and it's that essential and even hypnotic energy that guitarist and composer Jay Danley captures in Ethio Jazz Volume One.

Arguably the most important—certainly the most recognizable—element of classic Ethiopian jazz is its bass-heavy groove patterns. In the hot music scene of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, musicians fused traditional Ethiopian music with North American jazz, funk, soul, and Latin rhythms. The ensemble Danley has put together captures the sinuous and mesmerizing nature of the multilayered rhythmic patterns with a dazzling virtuosity. Danley adds the golden-toned guitar lines that lie on top of the mix, together with a string of soloists and guests on the recording.

Jazz and dancing don't always come together amicably, but this is music that is meant to be danced to, regardless of its virtuosity. "Aboota" keeps drummer Max Senitt busy with a constant beat that's overlaid with opposing patterns, highlighting a fat sax solo. "Getachew" delves into the essence of golden era Ethiopian style, where the rhythm section, fearturing drummer Senitt and percussionist Adam Hay, churns out a polyrhythmic bed for guitar, horns, and piano to play on.

"The Solace of the Beating Heart" puts Danley's guitar and a melodic horn solo by Alexander Brown under the spotlight over an irresistible pattern from the rhythm section. The bass is key to the sound, and Tyler Emond holds down the beat with flawless taste and a genuine feel for the genre. Rich Brown takes over on bass—and center stage—in "Mulatu," a track that juxtaposes his bass patterns against the sax and is undoubtedly named after Ethio Jazz pioneer, Mulatu Astatke.

The distinctive Ethiopian tonality is based on pentatonic modes, using a flat sixth and sharp seventh. It colors the music, but doesn't get in the way of Danley's originality as a composer. Inside the Ethio jazz genre, Danley explores a range of different tones and colors. "Green and Gold" takes the mood down to a languid and melodic groove that puts the sax to the forefront. Hilario Duran adds Cuban-informed piano and a Latin flavor to the international music mix in "Sundial," resulting in an interesting texture made up of multiple patterns and rhythms.

Danley's attention to musical authenticity, together with a sense of compositional invention, results in an intriguing mix of sounds in this release.

Track Listing: Aboota; Clean Water And A bag Of Rice; D.A.R.E.; An Emerald At The Bottom Of The Ocean; Getachew; Green And Gold; Mulatu; Sundial; The Marble Orchard; The Solace Of The Beating Heart; Waking Dream.

Personnel: Jay Danley: guitar/composer; Elena Kapeleris: saxophone; Chris Gale: saxophone; Alexander Brown: trumpet; Max Senitt: drums; Adam Hay: percussion; Tyler Emond: bass; Hilario Duran: Piano; Rich Brown: bass.

Title: Ethio Jazz Volume One | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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