Mulatu Astatke set for Glasgow Jazz Festival
Ethio-jazz pioneer visits Scotland for the first time
An alto saxophone line snakes slowly over shimmering vibraphone and sensuous Latin percussion. A buzzing guitar or grooving organ might come in, bringing a touch of slow-burning psychedelia. This is the music of Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, who will be visiting Scotland for the first time as part of Glasgow Jazz Festival. From the generation of musicians who thrived in Ethiopia's Golden 70s, Astatke helped bring jazz back to Africa.
'I felt deep down that there could be a way to fuse Western jazz with the cultural music of Ethiopia,' Astatke tells The List. 'I experimented and found that the Western jazz elements were often too overpowering. Eventually, I struck a balance that I was happy with which allowed the colours of the Ethiopian modes to shine through.'
Astatke's music has won a new generation of admirers through Jim Jarmusch's film Broken Flowers and the wonderful Ethiopiques compliations (put out by French label, Buda). He has continued to push forward, recording albums with British future jazzers The Heliocentrics and US experimentalists Either/Orchestra, and writing an opera as part of a Harvard fellowship.
'For the Glasgow show, I will be performing with my own ‘Steps Ahead’ band, with some great musicians including Byron Wallen (trumpet), Tom Skinner (drums), Danny Keane (cello) and James Arben (horns)', explains Astatke. 'We play compositions from my most recent album, Mulatu Steps Ahead but we also re-interpret some of my older compositions like 'Netsanet' and 'Yekermo Sew'. I hope the audiences there will enjoy it very much.'
The Bridge @ Platform, Glasgow. Thu 30 Jun