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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Large Unit/Fendika - Ethiobraz [PNL - 2019]

After giving his Avant, playful & at times seared takes on both Brazilian funk, Japanese noise, here with Ethiobraz Norwegian bandleader/ drummer Paal Nilssen-Love returns to give his big-band take on Ethiopian music. And as usual, it’s highly creative-at-times fairly manic jazz bound ride into another musical genre.

The ten-track CD appears on Nilssen-Love’s label PNL- and it comes in a glossy, thick & colorful mini gatefold that takes in the colors of the Ethiopian flag, and pictures of the large collective performing the songs in a live setting.


The album is a live recording from 2018 where the twenty-piece band played at the Molde International Jazz festival in Molde, Norway. As we’ve come to expect from Nilssen-Love the often dense & active sound of the big band is capture in wonderful clarity & depth- and really aside from the few moments on stage banter, and applauses you wouldn’t know this was a live recording.


The twenty-person band takes in the following-Nardos Tesfaye- Vocals, Melaku Belay- Dancer & Vocal. Julie Kjær- Flute, Alto Saxophone. Kristoffer Berre Alberts-Tenor & Alto Sax. Klaus Ellerhusen Holm- Clarinet , Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone. Thomas Johansson- Trumpet. Mats Äleklint-trombone. Per Åke Holmlander-Tuba. Kalle Moberg- Accordion. Tommi Keränen- Electronics. Habetamu Yeshambel- Masingo. Fasika Hailu-Krahr. Terrier Ex- electric guitar. Jon Rune Strøm- Electric & Acoustic Bass. Chistian Aeaas Svendsen- Electric & Acoustic Bass. Mesay Abebaye- Bobero. Paulinho Bicolo- Cuica. Celio De Carvalho-Percussion & Berimbau. Andreas Wildhagen- Drums. Paal Nilssen- Love- Drums.

Kicking off the album we have “Zelesegna” a four & a half minute track, & this starts things in a nicely moody, tautly exotic & mysterious manner- as we find a blend of raw-yet- brooding rousing string riffs, hovering wind work, and wailing ethnic female singing.  As we move through the album the pace is largely kept upbeat & urgent, yet there is both variations in player set-up &  mood present- we move from bounding & snaking percussion meets building manic jazz horn work of “Fluku”. Through to the sassy-meets- cluttering horn/losse grooving acoustic bass/ and simmering guitar swing of “Shellele”. Onto densely backed-yet- joyful “Nargi” with its thick matt of drum/ percussion detail, chanted & richly wailed female vocals, & sawing banks of string & horn work. Through to the building & shambling mystery of the final track “Tezeta”-  this just over six-minute track begins with blocks of furtive at first horn darts, mood string saws, brooding-yet-tight guitar tones, loose drum patterns- added to this we have the return of the smoky rich & heady female vocals. With the whole track nicely building to a rousing crescendo.

I’d say Ethiobraz is certainly on par with Paal Nilssen-Love other big-band focused projects- as he once again mangers to put his stamp on the  material here which are largely traditional Ethiopian songs. Certainly, if you enjoy more ethnic focused jazz with a good blend of some fairly firey free jazz & moodier atmospheric fare you’ll need to pick up a copy of this.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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