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CD REVIEW: Meklit Hadero, "on a day like this ..."

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Diana Nollen  ::   UPDATED: 21 January 2014 | 3:52 pm   ::  

A rainy day is a perfect day to sit back and enjoy, "on a day like this..."

Any day is a perfect day to sit back and spin this 2010 full-length debut CD by Meklit Hadero.

The Ethiopian-American songstress is returning to her Cedar Rapids roots for a Monday (2/4) evening appearance at CSPS Hall. If the concert is even half as amazing as this CD, it's a sure bet/don't miss event.

Her parents -- both doctors -- fled Ethiopia in the early '80s, when Meklit was just 1 year old. The family found asylum in the United States and settled in Cedar Rapids. Subsequent moves took them to New York and Florida.

Now known by her first name, Meklit (pronounced muh-kleet), studied political science at Yale, then moved to San Francisco, where the eclectic music scene helped her shape her chameleon sound.

This magical collection of original, folk and adapted arrangements is astonishing in tone, depth and marriage of world traditions. A little exotic, a little bouncy, a little languid, a little jazzy -- it's an intoxicating brew.

The details


You know you've stumbled upon something special from the opening strains of "Walk Up," with guitar providing the ambling beat under Meklit's smokey alto voice. We come to a Y in the road halfway through, when the music veers down another equally interesting path.

Color and tone change again with the sunny "Float and Fall," where Meklit's voice takes on a reedy lilt, floating above some saucy, jazzy trumpet and grounding bari sax.

This give-and-take swirls throughout all the cuts, from the breezy bossa nova and biting lyrics of "Leaving Soon" to the vocal syncopation and blistering trumpet of "Soleil Soleil" and the languid, breathy calm of "You and the Rain."

Meklit explores her homeland through "Abbay Mado," weaving jazz trumpet through exotic percussion on this traditional Ethiopian song with a modern twist.

"Call" evokes another bossa nova connection, before taking a haunting detour down a country/folk road. "Walls" follows, creating an ultra-hip, smooth sophistication through a sing-speak style that hovers beneath the wings of a flutey trumpet. "Under" brings it all home with a beautiful, simple piano and bass line leading into Meklit's sexy, breathy vocals suspended in the air.

The most surprising cut, however, comes on a song she didn't write, but has totally reinvented. We've heard "Feeling Good" in many ways, recorded by a multitude of artists, including Nina Simone, Sammy Davis Jr., Brian Stokes Mitchell and Jennifer Hudson. But nobody breathes new life into this anthem like Meklit, who gives it new buoyancy through exotic Afrobeats supporting her nearly a cappella whisper before everything melts into a slow jazz.

This melting pot of music is nothing short of luminous.

 

 

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