MULATU ASTATKE AT THE LUCKMAN

Egon | Jan. 10, 2009 | Photographs |

Last night was trippy. The Luckman Theater at Cal-State LA’s El Sereno campus. 7 pm, buzzed off the Hennessey that Madlib, Lo and I were swirling in the car. Playing scratchy Ethiopian 45s (dropped to CD, of course) as a motley crew of attendees made their way in and settled into their assigned seats. Music – way too quiet. Where the hell is the monitor (no wonder I decided against a career in this). Quantic comes on stage, holding an original Getachew Merkuria LP in a tattered sleeve. “You bought that in Addis?” The affirmative nod from a grizzled face. Damn. I need to go there. Making my way back stage – there’s Mulatu. Wow. That’s really Mulatu Astatke. “Can I take your picture?” The polite nod. “I put out The Heliocentrics music.” “Ah, Quinton…” No… That’s not me. “Do you know Malcolm?” “Yes, of course, the bandleader…”
Cut’s on stage with one turntable and eight effects pedals. Sudanese funk blending with Girma Beyene over Turkish breakbeats. Good job Lucas. Phil Ranelin’s here, skinny as a rail, all soul. Azar Lawrence, bald now, and rounder than I remember on that Prestige Record. Bennie Maupin. Muynungo! “Still got any copies of that Co-Real Artists 45?!” I need to make it down to Angeles Vista.

Mulatu on stage. Big band. They sound good. Damn, how I wish Malcolm were here. Jake and Adey would have been nice. But Connie Price is holding it down on guitar. Fuck! “Tezeta” is just gorgeous. Standing next to Mulatu’s daughter, she has the same LV handbag Lo does. Crazy. Bennie Maupin’s clarinet solo. I just want to cry.

The place is packed. How many people here? “Mulatu” comes off; Todd Simon kills the trumpet solo. “Yegele Tezeta” sounds like the Ethiopian “Theme From SWAT.” But I’m all smiles.

Late night, downtown at some loft…too many glasses of Frei Petit Syrah. 2 am, nursing mojitos with Phil Ranelin and Madlib. Photo opp? Grabbing Mulatu’s head. Damn I shouldn’t have done that. But… It was there.

ADM pushes a Beybonlar 45 my way, and a Cem Caraca “Gilgamis.” Gotta make it to the bank in the morning.