Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 25, 2008: Album of the Day Vol. 030: Ethiopiques 20 - Either/Orchestra Live in Addis

Ethiopiques - Vol. 20 Either/Orchestra Live in Addis

Disc: 1

1. Amlak Abet Abet - Teshome Sissay
2. Muziqawi Silt - Girma Beyene
3. Feqer Aydelem Wey - Ayalew Mesfin
4. Altchalkoum - Afewerq Yohannes
5. Yezemed Yebada - Teshome Meteku
6. Soul Tezeta - Michael Belayneh

Disc: 2

1. Eyeye - Nerses Nalbandian
2. Antchim Endelela - Bahta Gebre-Heywet
3. Keset Eswa Betcha - Shewalul Mengistu
4. Bati (Bass Intro) - Tsedenia Gebre-Marqos
5. Bati - Tsedenia Gebre-Marqos
6. Shellela - Getatchew Mekurya
7. Embi Ba (Gourague) - Mahmoud Ahmed

All About Jazz Review By Budd Kopman

Live in Addis, the latest release by the Either/Orchestra, provides a superb example of the way Russ Gershon, E/O's founder and main composer/arranger, keeps the band fresh and exciting by always moving into new territory and never standing still.
The path that led to this historic concert has already been described in these pages, but the more important thing is how Ethiopian popular music is refracted through the peculiar lens of Gershon and company to produce something entirely new which can be appreciated by lovers of jazz and Ethiopian music alike.

For twenty years Russ Gershon has led a band that plays his original compositions or arrangements, along with originals by band members and cooperative arrangements. While the personnel has changed over the years, the attitude of the E/O, admittedly anchored by Gershon’s unique musical personality, has remained the same: a blend of top-notch musicianship, much humor, and power—the only constant being the group's ability to surprise the listener every time out. (Who else would think of juxtaposing Monk’s “Nutty” with “Ode to Billy Joe,” as on Radium?) Furthermore, the band has always had great soloists and a strong camaraderie, creating the feel of non-arrangements while playing.

Even for someone not particularly enthralled with “world music” in general, Live in Addis is a total gas from the first notes of “Amlak Abét Abét,” where the E/O roars out of the gate to set the tone for the entire concert. They leave nothing behind, blowing up a storm with complicated polyrhythms underneath, totally flattening everything before them. Gershon’s modus operandi is laid open for inspection, with the Ethiopian part clearly heard in the rhythm and the tune blown in unison. But then the soloing starts, and we now have jazz.

You can hear the audience in Addis Ababa really get into what is happening as they applaud when the second half of the fifteen-minute piece is introduced with a recap of the main tune. A hush settles as Jeremy Udden, with that unearthly tone of his, takes a solo with just pianist Greg Burk and some quiet drumming behind him. The solo is quite abstract and could easily be accepted as advanced jazz. The percussion starts coalescing and the tension rises, Udden starts playing multiphonics, the band plays interjections behind him, and the music on the pedal point reaches an almost excruciating tension until the main tune reappears again to wild applause.

And, remember, this is just the first track of two hours of music!

Having totally won the audience over, the band slides seamlessly into a softer “Muziqawi Silt,” featuring a beautiful bass solo by Rick McLaughin, and the rest of the show ebbs and flows, many times reaching peaks of ecstasy. Some prominent Ethiopian musicians guest on the second disc, and tenor saxophonist Gétatchèw Mèkurya is incredibly powerful on “Shellèla.”

Live in Addis is a total triumph as music, once again, is shown to be able to bring together diverse peoples in mutual love.

Youtube description from youtuber user budamusique:

Big band de jazz basé à Boston, nominé aux Grammy Awards, Either/Orchestra se consacre au répertoire éthiopien depuis plusieurs années et a réalisé son rêve: un concert à Addis Ababa avec des invités ethiopiens prestigieux, dont Mulatu Astatqè (Ethiopiques 4, «Broken Flowers») et Gétatchèw Mekurya (Ethiopiques 14). Cet enregistrement rend bien compte de l'énergie et de l'émotion qui ont présidé à cette rencontre. Les arrangements particulèrement réussis et remarquablement interprétés par ces musiciens aventureux ne sont pas sans évoquer ceux de Gil Evans pour le «Sketch of Spain» de Miles Davis.

Russ Gershon and his Grammy-nominated Either/Orchestra have included many Ethiopian pieces into their repertoire in recent years. In January 2004, the Boston big band travelled to Addis for a dream-come-true concert featuring prestigious Ethiopian guests, among them Mulatu Astatqè (Ethiopiques 4, «Broken Flowers») and Gétatchèw Mekurya (Ethiopiques 14). This recording perfectly renders the energy and emotion of this gathering, with beautiful arrangements remarkably performed by excellent, adventurous musicians bringing to mind Gil Evans' band in Miles Davis' «Sketches of Spain

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