Either/Orchestra: Ethiopiques 20: Live in Addis

Paul Olson By

Sign in to view read count
Either/Orchestra: Ethiopiques 20: Live in Addis Here's to the wonders of recorded music and cultural exchange. Either/Orchestra leader Russ Gershon's encounter with the Blue Silver label's Ethiopian Groove album, a compilation of the seminal, brass-packed Ethiopian jazz/pop of the 1970s, led him to arrange some of its pieces as "The Ethiopian Suite. They were recorded by the E/O for the 1999 album More Beautiful Than Death and eventually were heard by some of the songs' composers, as well as Buda Musique label curator Francis Falceto.

That led to an invitation to play at the third Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa—and the band's astonishing performances are now available to us on the monumental double-disc set Live in Addis. To complete the circle, the album's on Buda's Ethiopiques series—the same place where Ethiopian Groove has appeared as a reissue—but it's the first time a western group's interpretations of Ethiopian music have appeared there.

The music was recorded in concert on January 21, 2004, and this remarkable version of the group (pianist Greg Burk, drummer Harvey Wirht and saxman/flutist Henry Cook have since left the band) is captured perhaps at the very peak of its collective powers. The recording's not fancy—Burk's piano's not terribly well-served—but every instrument is completely distinct, and the band simply kills on polyrhythmic, grooving pieces like Girma Beyène's Middle Eastern-sounding "Muziqawi Silt and, for that matter, on Nersès Nalbandian's percussion-free composition "Eyèyè (the late Nalbandian did the arrangement, too).

Ethiopian percussionist Mulatu Astatqé guests on the second half of the concert, and it's hard to believe that percussionist Vicente Lebron, drummer Harvey B. Wirht, and Astatqé are doing all the batterie themselves; it sounds like more than three musicians are playing. (Various horn players add assorted hand percussion before Astatqé joins the ensemble.) Bassist Rick McLaughlin is perhaps the most valuable player here, as evidenced by his swinging, melodic line running through the contrapuntal horns and piano of "Antchim Endèléla (which also features co-writer/co-arranger Bahta Gèbrè-Heywit on vocals).

Mind you, this is horn-driven music, and the E/O horns dazzle throughout—from the slow-building, incrementally increasing massed ensembles that begin the astonishing group arrangement of Tèshomè Sissay's "Amlak Abét Abét to Gershon's keening soprano threading through the other horns on the Fender Rhodes-driven "Feqer Aydèlem Wèy. Trombonist Joel Yennior also plays some remarkable solo parts on both "Yèzèmed Yèbada and the aforementioned "Antchim Endèléla.

Several local guests besides Gèbrè-Heywit take the stage for a song during the set, and the most remarkable might be tenor player Gétatchèw Mèkurya, whose blurred pitch and physical, soulful melisma strongly recall Albert Ayler in particular, and the tonalities of free jazz in general—yet he arrived at his style completely independently of Ayler. (Ethiopiques 14, Gétatchèw Mèkurya: Négus of Ethiopian Sax, is highly recommended.)

Ultimately, the Either/Orchestra is a band, not a collection of soloists, and let's just say they come across as neither jet-lagged nor culture-shocked on these recordings. They sound bracingly energized and just plain tight. Live in Addis is the best live album of the year—in any genre—and one of the E/O's finest albums. Heartily recommended.

Visit the Either/Orchestra on the web.

Track Listing: CD 1: Amlak Abt Abt; Muziqawi Silt; Feder Aydlem Wy; Altchalkoum; Yzmed Ybada; Soul Tezeta. CD 2: Eyy; Antchim Endlla; Kst Eswa Betcha; Bati (bass intro); Bati; Shellla; Embi Ba.

Personnel: Russ Gershon: tenor and soprano saxophone; Jeremy Udden: alto saxophone; Henry Cook: baritone saxophone, flute; Joel Yennior: trombone; Tom Halter: trumpet; Colin Fisher: trumpet: Greg Burk: piano, Fender Rhodes; Rick McLaughlin: bass; Harvey B. Wirht: drums; Vicente Lebron: congas, percussion. With Mulatu Astotq: percussion, vibes (CD1 #5-6, CD2 #1-7); Bahta Gbr-Heywt: vocal (CD2 #2); Gtatchw Mkurya: tenor saxophone (CD 2 #6); Tsdnia Gbr-Marqos: vocal (CD 2 #5); Michael Blaynh: vocal (CD 1 #6).

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Buda Musique | Style: Big Band


More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Two Steps from the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Two Steps from the Blues
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 18, 2016
Read "Forty" CD/LP/Track Review Forty
by James Nadal
Published: May 15, 2016
Read "Blue And Lonesome" CD/LP/Track Review Blue And Lonesome
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 9, 2016
Read "Piano Song" CD/LP/Track Review Piano Song
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "AHEO" CD/LP/Track Review AHEO
by James Nadal
Published: May 23, 2016
Read "Everything's Beautiful" CD/LP/Track Review Everything's Beautiful
by Asher Wolf
Published: July 18, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!