An entrancing piece of latin-influenced doo-wop from the sole release by a neighborhood salsa band from Brooklyn, "Just Like A Fool" uses its simplicity and soulfulness to sway its way to where ever it is that longing lives. Sung and arranged by Hector Ramos, with organ by Miguel Fulu, there's a charm in the homespun feel of the song; that unmistakable beauty of amateurs getting it all right. On paper it seems like it would be too long at five minutes, but in practice, I've never made it to the next song without getting in a couple of replays first.
Truly one of the most powerfully calming pieces of music I've come across, "Tezeta" never fails to slip past the anxious noise that surrounds the soul and inject a sense of real peace that rapidly expands, engulfing the listener for six minutes that seem to go by in seconds.
Born in Eritrea, a country between Sudan and Ethiopia, Tesfa Mariam Kidane grew up listening to American radio broadcasts from Kagnew Station, a U.S. Army radio installation in the capitol of Asmara, and spent the 60's and early 70's playing saxophone in several Ethiopian bands, such as the All Star Band that backs him up here.
This track is arranged by Mulatu Astatke, and I've seen it credited to him in several places (which may be correct, I'm not entirely sure), but the magic of Kidane's saxophone and his interplay with Girma Béyéné's piano, lend me some comfort in leaving the credit with Tesfa.
The title of the piece, "Tezeta" translates to something akin to "nostalgia" but refers to an entire mode of music, more like how America uses "blues". Any survey of Ethiopian music will come up with several pieces that share the title, and many are treasures, but this one certainly holds a special place.
Passive overtures and lonely romantics can groove too, y'know. Electric organ soul with Spanish-style guitar flourishes and a vocal that's somehow both lacking confidence and funky, this is a track that's quickly found itself in heavy "pop into my head" rotation ever since I heard it. I wish I could tell you something more about it, but it seems to be a one off release for both the artist and the label, so even the year of release seems to be an unknown. Perhaps that's fitting though, as it feels like a private, longing journal entry come to life and given an hour of late-night studio time.
Soaring above the intersection between spiritual jazz and the sort of new age background music you'd expect to find soundtracking a VHS that explains how to use new technology at the library (and I mean that in all the best ways), "Yasmeen" opens this recently reissued private press debut album from harpist, Jeff Majors, For Us All (Yoka Boka). After spending his teenage years under the musical & spiritual tutelage of Alice Coltrane, Majors moved to Washington, D.C., where he played with the cosmic jazz ensemble of Brother Ah & The Sounds of Awareness.
There's such a purity of hope in this music. Technology is seen as exciting; a doorway leading the world to a new enlightenment. Sitting squarely on the other side of that portal, the reality may feel quite a bit different, but this speaks to one of the great joys of recorded music; it's ability to not just preserve a vintage worldview, but also the very emotions that worldview elicited. We may not be able to see things that same way again, but we can still tap in to the essence of how they felt.