Mulatu Astatke & Ethio-jazz

Wow, hello there! Sheesh – been awhile! I’ve been a hiatus for the past few months, but hopefully I’m back for good. I’ve been recuperating from a surgery so spending a lot of time plugged into what is going on in the world (prayers to Japan and the Mid-East/North Africa most definitely) and also pop culture (American Idol – Casey Abrams please!).  Couldn’t do much else than just sort of watch the world from a distance, but finally I’ve felt my energy levels return and I thought I’d get back to doing some blogging about music.

Let me get right to some great roots music from East Africa – Ethiopia to be exact. Mulatu Astatke is an Ethiopian jazz musician who studied all over the world including Berklee School of Music in Boston. He merged his love of jazz, especially Latin jazz, with his own cultural traditional sounds creating a distinct genre of music called “Ethio-jazz”. He released an album last year, “Mulatu Steps Ahead” his first solo project in decades with some top jazz musicians helping him out. Most of his music is instrumental, making it a favorite of 70s vinyl funk/jazz collectors and artists like Nas, Damian Marley, Cut Chemist and Knaan, who have sampled many of his songs in their own music. Here is a smattering of songs I found scouring youtube for your listening pleasure and to get a taste of his flavor.

Thanks for reading and I’m so grateful for each and every person who visits this blog. I’m shocked that after months not posting, my older posts continue to get a steady stream of music loving visitors every day! I hope to find my groove again in 2011. Peace, love and soul to you all!

Links and Resources:

Mulatu Astatke bio on wikipedia

Mulatu Astatke’s Myspace page

Raw, swampy, earthy, pure groove: Florida’s JJ Grey & Mofro

One of my favorite musicians/bands is North Florida’s JJ Grey & Mofro. They were first MOFRO and now they go by JJ Grey & Mofro, but regardless I’ve been following since their first album, Blackwater. My sister played them for me and I fell deeply in love at first sound. I listened to that album on repeat for days and then went out bought my own copy and have bought every album since. I love the band’s vibe, mixing up Southern rock, straight up funk, and a raw groove. It’s just plain sexy.

Photo by Melanie Martinez (c) 2009 in Austin, Texas.

JJ Grey is more than a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and soulful vocalist. He is a storyteller, a folk philosopher, and a cultural historian. He sings with such passion about the beauty of the simple things in life and his homeland, the country in Northern Florida, on the outskirts of Jacksonsville. If you are a fan of great music, go see them live – you will thank me later.

The title song from their second album, Lochloosa:

Many of JJ’s songs have a mystical quality, interweaving mysterious stories about relationships and people’s lives while connecting with the magic of the natural world. This is “Dewdrops,” from Orange Blossoms:

“Air” from the first album, Blackwater:

Links and Resources:
Blackwater by MOFRO
Lochloosa by MOFRO
Country Ghetto by JJ Grey & Mofro
Orange Blossoms by JJ Grey & Mofro
Mofro Official Website

Image Source

Image Source

Groovin’ with the sons of Booker T: MMW, Big Organ Trio, & The City Champs

In an earlier post, “I live for the funk…” I featured one of my favorite James Brown songs, an instrumental track “Why Am I Treated So Bad.” To continue on that funk-jazz trip, I’m taking the road to Memphis, Tennessee! Another funk soul pioneer was Booker T and MGs, a band who mainly backed up soul artists on the Stax Record label in the 1960s, but had their own success especially with the highly recognizable “Green Onions.” Stax was responsible for some of the greatest music in the history of soul, including Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes.

In the following video clip, John Lennon’s jukebox was found with all kinds of American soul records, including some 45s of Booker T & The MGs. The guitarist of the band, Steve Cropper, talks about the Stax sound – a solid rhythm, holding a groove and getting people to move:
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