The Ethiopiques series of world music keeps slowly widening its arc, and this time around it's come up with some very interesting vintage (circa 1972) material. Ethiopiques, Vol. 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax features Getatchew Mekurya, a sax player whose inspiration comes from traditional warrior music: the kind meant to whip soldiers into a frenzy before battle. And frenzied his playing truly is, with several shades of free jazz at its most abandoned (which, curiously, he claims never to have heard). It's wild stuff -- but wild only on the sax. The band behind him exists strictly for melodic and rhythmic function. While they perform admirably, they add little to the music itself, while the sax takes off on weird and wonderful paths. It's stirring, and demands a lot of a Western listener unfamiliar with the tradition. But it's perhaps best ingested in small doses. And while it's interesting, certainly, it's not on a par with the rest of the series.
Ethiopiques, Vol. 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax Review
by Chris Nickson