Mulatu Astake is also known as the father of Ethio-jazz. A virtuoso musician and notably known for his contribution on the vibraphone to music he has created a sound mixing African music with the influences of Duke Ellington, a mentor of his. With a wealth of music in his back catalogue he releases 'Mulatu Steps Ahead' on Strut records.
Certainly Ethio-jazz sounds interesting. The fusion of world sounds is the way forward and Mulatu has been leading the way for a while to acclaim. When listening to 'Mulatu Steps Ahead' I wasn't sure whether it was just a jazz album as there are very clear influences to Ellington with long solos too. For me it's when the African or other world influences kick in that makes quite special.
Mulatu Steps Ahead is an enjoyable and sophisticated listen full of laid back cool musicianship but unfortunately it still falls short of blowing the listener away. The layers and blend of interwoven sounds means it's always going to sound fresh and interesting without being in your face or revolutionary. It's coffee table music with African roots. It's a seductive jazz sound with a laid back sunshine twist and some humility thrown in the mix.