Arranged as a retrospective of the formative work of Mulatu Astatke, the godfather of Ethio-jazz, a fusion of Ethiopian music and—you guessed it—jazz, The Story Of Ethio Jazz is 20 tracks ranging from two to six minutes outlining the development of the form over a 10-year period. Dominated by the vibraphone, Astatke’s signature instrument, the pieces are short, modal and are short on development, but heavy on mood.
That’s really what The Story Of Ethio Jazz tries to impart—a mood, a flavor for the genre. Many of the cuts here are a patois in that they don’t particularly feel like a developed style at all but instead a chunky primordial stew. It’s not your seamless Miles Davis fusion, it’s a more blunt and rash.
And it has its own charm in that way. These are certainly songs of development rather than final forms—this is basically what Astatke had in his vaults—and so it’s more of a piece to either introduce listeners to the basics of the form, or more likely, to give musicologists a record of the genre’s development. Either way, I’m for it.