Guzo

Music Review

21 Oct 2013
Samuel Yirga
Guzo
Real World/Society of Sound
Formats also available: CD, Apple Lossless download
CD, Apple Lossless download

Ethiopian pianist Samuel Yirga is the jewel in the Real World crown. He's not as famous as some of the artists on Peter Garbriel's label but he's equally as talented. I spotted him because the six track download only Habasha Sessions came out on Bowers & Wilkins' Society of Sound, a release that should by all rights have earned him worldwide acclaim, but his direction at the time was pretty straight ahead jazz, no bad thing of course but not commercial. For 2012's Guzo he broadened his range with a mix of solo piano pieces and songs with a full band, the highlight of the latter being a fine version of the Black Gold of the Sun, it's great to hear a really good recording of this tune even if Minnie Riperton isn't on the mic.
The opening track Abet Abet (Punt mix) is an instrumental band number with big dynamics and is like the rest of the album a superb recording, as a result of this, and the fact that it's rather good, it has becoming a staple test track for me. The real highlights are those pieces where it's just Yirga on the piano, several of which had versions on Habasha Sessions. He has absorbed rhythmic skills from Mulato Astatke and subtlety from Abdullah Ibrahim and really deserves a far wider audience than this fine but low profile label can provide.
I listened to the 24/48 studio quality download of Guzo from Bowers & Wilkins' Society of Sound site. It has a good variety of excellent recordings from Real World and the London Symphony Orchestra available on subscription, there's a free trial option for newcomers which may include something by Yirga.