Beautifully captured at one of their fiery live shows at the venerable Brooklyn non-profit cultural center Pioneer Works on July 1, 2016, the concert was recorded by PW staff and mixed by Ted Young with mastering by ATFA’s expert audio extraction collaborator Jessica Thompson. The performance clarifies what many people across the globe already know: in his fifth decade of music-making Hailu Mergia continues to push the boundaries of his remarkable abilities.
Mergia and his veteran band energetically and playfully unpeel layer after layer of harmonic and rhythmic interest out of a spectrum of Ethiopian repertoire. Modern jazz demands constant reinvention and improvisation, night after night creating new works out of known modes and classic standards. This band is unstoppable when it comes to turning age-old melodies (like Tizita or Anchihoye Lene) upside down and inside out until they emerge as molten new works, often spontaneously. Mergia’s original compositions (like Yegle Nesh) shine brighter than ever here as well. Moving from keyboard to organ to accordion to melodica, he deftly switches instruments—often during the same song. Mergia at 77 years old seems to be working harder than musicians half his age.
Pioneer Works Swing (Live) brings into focus the kind of onstage group improvisation and deadly solo passages that reach for places Mergia and the band have never gone, on festival and club stages across four continents.
1. Yegle Nesh (Live)
2. Tizita (Live)
3. Belew Beduby (Live)
4. Anchihoye Lene (Live)
5. Abichu Nega Nega (Live)
6. Yetewat Hil (Live)