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5 recommended ethno jazz albums

Blog
5 recommended ethno jazz albums

07.09.2021

Text: Cem Kayıran

Music that combines jazz form with sounds from various cultures has a long history dating back to the ‘50’s. This approach has evolved into a genre of its own over the years by adding traditional instruments onto the sound palette, breathing new life into traditional tunes through jazz arrangements and with bald moves that connect distant geographies on an aural platform. Although the genre is called ethno jazz, its reach is limitless. This is probably the reason why it always sounds fresh.

Many of the sources refer to John Coltrane as the initiator of this sea of endless possibilities. We have 5 recommended ethno jazz albums for you. If you want to dig deeper, a broader Spotify playlist follows.

Wadada Leo Smith & N’da Kulture – Golden Hearts Remembrance (1997)
(Chap Chap)

Trumpet player and composer Wadada Leo Smith is recognized with his outputin the area of avant garde jazz and free improvisation. His discography includes many recordings that has shaped the journey of ethno jazz. Golden Hearts Remembrance, which he recorded in 1997 with N’Da Kulture sextet, is inspired by eastern parts of the world map. The songs are so naturally linked to one another that the album, released by Japan based label Chap Chap, absorbs the listener from start to finish. With poems by Wadada Leo Smith’s wife Harumi Makino Smith deepens the theme of Golden Hearts Remembrance.

Anouar Brahem – Thimar (1998)
(ECM)

Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem and gifted contrabass player Dave Holland creates an immersive sound that at times takes the floor. On top of that, John Surman on soprano sax breathes almost into the outer space and thus Thimar builds a complete set that resonates deep in the listener’s soul. When it comes to ethno jazz, this is one of the albums that should be mentioned. Brahem has constructed a transitional space between jazz and Arabic music traditions since the ‘80’s and he is considered an “inventor” in this field. Unquestionably Thimar is one of the masterpieces of this inventor.

Aziza Mustafa Zadeh – Dance of Fire (1995)
(Columbia)

Azerbaijani pianist Aziza Mustafa Zadeh’s third album was recorded during the first two months of 1995 in New York. All of the 11 songs on the album, that combines be-bop inspired jazz arrangements with Azerbaijani music Mugham are written by Zadeh himself. The personnel on the album is truly extraordinary: Al Di Meola, Bill Evans, Stanley Clarke, Kai E. Karpeh De Camargo and Omar Hakim. Zadeh, who we hear on the mic in the song “Carnival” then told BBC that this was “a new slant on the jazz vocal, just when you thought everything had been said on the subject.” and was highly praised.

Kora Jazz Trio – Part I (2003)
(Celluloid)

Kora Jazz Trio consists of Guinean and Senegalese musicians Djeli Moussa Diawara, Abdoulaye Diabaté and Moussa Sissokho. West African instrument kora lies at the basis of their music. The trio released an album trilogy between the years 2003-2008 and played a number international jazz festivals. They combine African rhythms with mandinga tradition with the help of the liberating jazz attitude. Part I is the first studio album the band has recorded.   

Dhafer Youssef - Divine Shadows (2006)
(Jazzland Recordings)

When it comes to fusion in jazz, one of the musicians that come to mind first is probably Dhafer Youssef. Throughout his career Youssef has got into the habit of intersecting melodies sprawling from his oud with different aesthetics and approaches. Divine Shadows is the second album he recorded in his years in Oslo and a very distinct example of his vast musical perception. He is accompanied by Eivind Aarset on guitar, Bugge Wesseltoft on piano, Rune Arnesen on drums and Arve Henriksen on trumpet.

Click for Spotify playlist.

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