Ethiopiques, Vol. 4
This obscure 14-cut compilation, subtitled “Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale 1969-1974,” may be the single baddest set of jams I’ve heard in years. Most of the tracks here were recorded by bandleader Mulatu Astatke (pictured on the cover with Duke Ellington), whose combo sounds like it has absorbed the essential elements of James Brown-influenced R&B instrumentals and post-John Coltrane Impulse Records free jazz, before simmering them with what has to be an Abyssinian analogue of Jamaican dub. For example, “Yekatit” sounds like a wicked “Cissy Strut”-era Meters ascending riff propelled by voodoo percussion, with Bitches Brew-period Joe Zawinul on electric piano and a very blunted-sounding horn session. DJs and MCs take note.