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Guzo

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 25, 2012
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$13.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 6 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Guzo is the debut release of young Ethiopian pianist Samuel Yirga. Against the odds, Samuel found his way to music school in Addis Ababa and -- despite still being in his 20s and only having left music school relatively recently -- he has developed at a pace remarkable for someone of his age. He has gone on to become one of Ethiopia's most promising young musicians and composers and in recent years, Samuel has gained wider international recognition through his touring and recording with Ethio-fusion group Dub Colossus.


The title, Guzo, means "journey" in Amharic, the official working language of Ethiopia. Recorded partly in Addis Ababa and partly in the UK at Real World Studios, it is the product of his years experimenting with the music of his roots and the outside influences of American jazz (particularly Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock), Latin, and classical music. It explores the traditional musical history of Ethiopia, the more modern Ethiojazz that has brought his country's music to international attention, ventures into big-band brass ensembles, moves through soul and funk, and then simmers with the deeply impassioned solo piano tracks. Whilst the solo piano pieces are introspective and deeply felt, Samuel has enlisted some great singers and instrumentalists from Ethiopia, Europe and the Caribbean. Featured vocalists are the Creole Choir of Cuba, a Cuban choir whose songs go back to their Haitian roots; Mel Gara, a British singer whose origins are in Iraq; and Nicolette, a Nigerian-British singer, famous for her collaborations with Massive Attack.

While Sammy has been influenced by American jazz and funk, he also wanted to record some tunes which showed the great range of traditional music in Ethiopia. On these tracks, which he recorded in Addis Ababa, he was joined by some of the country's best young traditional instrumentalists.

Guzo is both bold and sensitive. It is the start of Samuel Yirga's musical journey and a platform to showcase the extraordinary skill as both musician and composer of this emerging young talent. The album's roots might be firmly in the Ethiojazz of Samuel's homeland, but this young man from Addis has opened up a whole new door on a musical genre and region.

Review

Guzo stacks up well next to the best music of swinging Addis. His three solo piano pieces show huge range: "Drop Me There" is crystalline and delicate..."Dance with the Legend" is as fluid as Keith Jarrett in Koln. Four stars. --Downbeat magazine

Samuel Yirga: A Prodigy Reviving Ethiopian Jazz.
Yirga has had to fight for his right to be himself, and in the end, the voice and vision of a distinctive composer shines through in this impressive debut. --NPR Music Online

... classical sensibilities fused with the native folk sound has made this young artist one of the most exciting and innovative jazz players in the world. --Huffington Post
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 25, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: REAL WORLD
  • ASIN: B007X93H6A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,177 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is a stunning first album by such a young, shining talent! Wow. Samuel Yirga plays -- and composes -- with such nuance and subtlety, and his assortment of influences makes it a very interesting and varied album that hangs together so nicely because of his amazing ability. His cover of the psychedelic soul classic "I Am the Black Gold of the Sun" with the Creole Choir of Cuba on vocals is a shimmering delight.
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An exquistely balanced flow of the style that derives from the modern renaissance of Ethiopian music, abstracted into jazz without losing its distinctive characteristics. Similar to the way that Abdullah Ibrahim' s playing changed the piano into an instrument that expressed an African musical sensibility, Samuel Yirga has made the piano an Ethiopian instrument. There are some lovely melodies, and it is an album the rewards play after play. Masterful, with depth of beauty.
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A debut recording of an artist often consists of a variety of styles to demonstrate versatility and broad talent. This is both an asset and problem, since musical coherence in an album usually is a superior approach. Samuel Yirga, young and brilliant keyboardist, presents here pop arrangements and also jazz stylings of Ethiopian music. As a jazz fan, I prefer the Ethiopian melodies and riffs in modern jazz format, yet funky fusions and brassy percussive beats bring one delightful surprise after another. A large number of musicians in Ethiopian and the UK were involved in this project (25 plus a choir); mixing from both sites was done only for track 10. Track 4, Ye Bati Koyita, has Yirga playing solo piano; an entire album of such Keith Jarrett-like solo explorations would be wonderful. Someday perhaps. For me, this track sells the album. The two following pieces with the Creole Choir of Cuba provide a big band or cinematographic feeling. Dance with the Legend is another solo piano track of passionate Ethiopian scales. My Head may be a statement of all the musical forms that compete in Yirga's noggin: a stew of soul, funk, Latin, traditional Ethiopian, and jazz. The swirling is set aside with the third solo piano work -- a slow, quiet, and gentle meditation. The Ping-Pong alternation continues with The Blues of Wollo, which begins mysteriously with the Ethiopian messenqo bowed lute and features vocalist Genet Masrehsa. This track has an amazingly original sound that is traditional and jazzy with a touch of classical mood. Nicollete, who appeared earlier, sings the final track, African Diaaspora, a pop piece. Experienced in jazz, classical music, and African fusion, Yirga has a bright solo career before him
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Music like this is the sonic equivalent of food. I'm a musician with pretty eclectic tastes, and I'm pretty choosy about what I listen to. This is my favorite thing I've heard all year. It's rich, well-crafted, musically interesting, unique, and fun to listen to, with multiple layers of musical flavor. Should I go on? I've already bought it as a Christmas present for another musician friend. If you're looking for something new to listen to, and you don't want it to sound like every single thing you've already heard, check this out! I'll be on the lookout for more albums by this artist.
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