Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu Steps Ahead
67-year old Ethiopian jazzman Mulatu Astatke returns with Mulatu Steps Ahead, following the Jim Jarmusch/Bill Murray collaboration Broken Flowers and last year's album with London's Heliocentrics. It's a seamless blend of Western jazz sounds with Latin and African rhythms and instrumentation with everything moving at a stately pace, with most tracks able to stretch subtly and comfortably out well over the five minute mark. It's this pace which is problematic: the album really could have done with one or two more uptempo numbers swinging in and rescuing it from falling into the ambient graveyard, and it is the very welcome yet too infrequent African elements that provide the most areas of interest. Having said that, the opening track, 'Radcliffe', is very atmospheric and moody, reminiscent of something from Bernard Hermann's Taxi Driver score.