Addis 1988 is a snapshot of when Mulatu Astatke was not yet the global Ethio Jazz superstar he is today, but a change sure came for him: and for the whole world in fact. In Ethiopia, the Derg had started to tumble and fall; Europe saw the wall between East and West gain more and more holes until it came down; Southern Africa witnessed Apartheid taking its final lap before Nelson Mandela was finally set free. With Ofra Haza's Yemenite Songs and Mory Kante's 'Yeke Yeke' high on the international charts, music of the wider world finally entered the house of Western pop, giving high hopes and deep inspirations for many musicians who were previously excluded. First released in 1992, available on CD only but out of print for many years, Addis 1988 has now been remastered.
Generally accepted as the father of Ethio jazz, Mulatu Astatke releases his first studio album in over twenty years through Strut. Mulatu Steps Ahead signals somewhat of a new approach for the veteran who also engages with western jazz in favour of his more familiar, native style that has made him such a pioneering artist during the 60s and 70s. Having been making jazz music for the last 50 years, Mulatu Astatke has worked with some of the greats of the jazz world. On this album, he recorded with members of the Either/Orchestra in Boston, with members of The Heliocentrics and some of the UK's leading jazz and African players whilst also adding contributions by traditional Ethiopian musicians in Addis. The album follows on from the success of both the acclaimed Inspiration Information collaboration and recent Strut compilation, New York "Addis " London.
Mulatu Steps does not focus on his past roots however, indeed much of it was recorded in the States. The result is a more traditional sounding jazz record than we are used to from him. But that is not to say there is less intrigue and personality woven into it though. In fact, each track on the album tells its very own story. Opener "Radcliffe" reflects on his time as a lecturer at Harvard University.
"Assosa" adapts traditional music from the Assosa tribes of North-Western Ethiopia, "Mulatu's Mood" re-works a Mulatu jazz fusion composition from the early 1990s into a new swinging Afro high life arrangement and "Derashe" deals with the traditional diminishing scales of the Derashe people of Southern Ethiopia. Although different from his previous work, Mulatu Astatke continues to keep jazz fresh, contemporary and up to date whether it's African or American. Let's just hope it's not another twenty years until his next studio album.