Mahmoud Ahmed

Tizita

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    6
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Tizita is a smoother, less striking run-through of some old hits by the masterful Ethiopian vocalist that nonetheless shows that he is still one helluva fine singer. It was released by a Los Angeles-based label but recorded in London and Springfield, Virginia, which raises suspicions that this was a track-by-track assembly where all the musicians may never have been in the same studio together. But the players know the score, and if Tilaye Gebre's tenor sax is augmented by synthesizer here rather than anchoring a full section, it's just a reflection of the times. The up-tempo "Anchi Bale Game" immediately puts to rest any doubts about the groove factor, and "Ashikaro" also kicks it with a sprightly rhythm flavored by nice sax and synth lines and just a tad of heavy guitar. But the familiar "Yenuro Metenshin" is undercut by bothersome synthesizer, an early sign of the disc's biggest problem. The synths are tasteful and tinkling to the point of annoying on the cloying ballads "Teyikesh Tereji" and "Tew Limed Glaye," but smooth out the title track, the name for the Ethiopian slow blues form that is a Mahmoud Ahmed specialty, into something closer to MOR dinner theater than true grit. "Engedaye Nesh" works soulfully on the downtempo side, the keyboards balanced by nice sax interjections with percussion bubbling underneath. "Teresash Woy" is another solid up-tempo piece with nice sax and synth lines, while the strong bass underpinning to "Yeshi Haregitu" gets that one heading into near-'50s R&B/gospel-flavored territory. Tizita is inconsistent and comes up a bit short on excitement, but on balance it's still an enjoyable, very professional outing that shows Mahmoud Ahmed hasn't lost any vocal skills over the years. Ultimately, it's one for completists, while the monumental Ere Mela Mela, and the only slightly less essential Soul of Addis remain the best introductions to this great Ethiopian singer.