Mulatu Astake - Afro-Latin Soul LP
This 1966 LP by Astatke (billed to Mulatu Astatke & His Ethiopian Quintet) isn''t shaded by nearly as much African/Ethiopian influence as his best work, which was recorded between the late ''60s and mid-''70s. As the title might lead you to believe, it is indeed more in the Latin soul-jazz bag than the later material, sometimes leaning toward the R&B-informed boogaloo sound of the mid-''60s. It''s not bad at all, though, even if it is more conventional than his best stuff. And particularly on his own compositions and arrangements (which comprise about half the LP), sometimes more exotic and African colors bubble closer to the surface, as on the eerie vibe parts he lays on "Mascaram Setaba." Occasional animal noises give the impression, whether intended or not, of a Martin Denny with more soul. He also proves himself competent at fairly straight jazz balladry on "A Kiss Before Dawn" and more mainstream Latin jazz on "Playboy Cha Cha," though these bear less of his individual stamp than most of the other cuts.