getatchew mekurya

A music recommendation: Ethiopiques Vol. 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax by Getatchew Mekurya. (It’s on eMusic, although they spell his first name as “Getachew.”)
Mekurya is evidently the greatest saxophonist in Ethiopian history. In the ’50s, he adapted a traditional Ethiopian war chant to his instrument, creating a style based on lots of trilling, wild scale work, and a very Ornette Coleman-sounding free jazz style. The backing band isn’t amazing, but there’s a clear Miles fusion influence there. It sounds inspired, tense, druggy, and spooky all at the same time.
Picture a Quentin Tarantino movie whose climactic scene features John Travolta nervously making an opium deal in the back room of some Turkish bath. This would be the soundtrack. (“Akale Wube,” track 11, in particular.)
In any event, I just find it amazing that this man, completly cut off from the mainstream of the jazz world, could be doing something so innovative — with apparently no knowledge of what Coleman and his peers were doing in the U.S. and Europe.
This is what I miss about the old eMusic. Until October, it offered unlimited free downloads of its entire catalog, which was a terrific incentive to listen to an artist with whom you were completely unfamiliar. Would I have run across Getatchew Mekurya any other way, not being an exceptionally knowledgable fan of jazz or world music? Nope.
Getatchew must be getting up there in years, but he’s still playing, evidently.