From the first classic, mellow tones of electric organ from Gogol Bordello bassist Tommy T’s new solo album, The Prester John Sessions, I knew I was in for a treat. Admittedly, I can barely spell Gogol Bordello, let alone describe their music, and I certainly did not know who Tommy T was before this album came to me but I was instantly converted to a fan of his and will make a point to give his other band further attention.
A mix of funk/jazz fusion, reggae and Ethiopian folk music, Tommy T (I’m resisting the urge to refer to him as Mr. T.), a native of the African nation, sought to bring some of the diverse sounds of his country to worldwide awareness with the aid of modern production techniques and world-class musicians. A primarily instrumental record, nearly all of the lyrics on the album are low in the mix and sung in the native tongue, Prester John was based on the story of a mysterious Christian king of the same name who travelled the world sharing the culture of Ethiopia wherever he went, an obvious allegory to Tommy T’s own mission.
Both ambient and psychedelic in just the right places, this album grooves without compromise and glides by with beautiful melodies and glorious improvised jams. Providing saxophone, organ, guitar, drums, bass and some more traditional native instruments, Prester John is an effusive statement of Ethiopian diversity to a previously ignorant world and a welcome addition to any music lover’s collection.
In A Word: Slick