Debo Band and Khan Jamal in Philadelphia

Debo Band
Debo Band
On Saturday, April 11, Crossroads Music presents a double bill featuring the ensemble of Philadelphia vibraphone legend Khan Jamal and Boston’s Debo Band, the first US based band ever invited to appear at the prestigious Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa. The concert will begin at 7:30 pm at 801 South 48th Street (at Baltimore Avenue). Tickets are $10-20 and are available both at the concert and in advance from Brown Paper Tickets (via our website or at 1-800-838-3006).

Philadelphia vibraphone and marimba player Khan Jamal has long been known to jazz musicians and critics for his technical virtuosity and musical leadership, but his appetite for all musical styles (finding the term “jazz” limiting, he prefers to describe his work as “creative improvised music”) and lack of taste for self-marketing have meant that his 40-year musical career is much less known to general audiences. While often been pigeonholed as an avant-gardist, his music is both sophisticated and highly accessible, combining a strong sense of melody with dazzling harmonic and tonal effects. At Crossroads, he will perform with percussionist Lenny Belasco and a bass player, to be determined.

Debo Band has been cultivating a small but enthusiastic following in the loft spaces, neighborhood bars, and church basements of Boston for the past three years. But very soon, they will be playing for a much larger audience: In May, Debo will travel to Ethiopia to perform at the Ethiopian Music Festival in the capital, Addis Ababa. Now the band is getting ready with a busy schedule of hometown shows and will perform for the first time in front of audiences in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

Ethiopian-American jazz saxophonist Danny Mekonnen, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Harvard University, founded Debo in 2006 as a way of exploring the unique sounds that filled the dance clubs of “Swinging Addis” in the 1960s and 70s. Danny was mesmerized by the unlikely confluence of contemporary American soul and funk music, traditional East African polyrhythms and pentatonic scales, and the instrumentation of Eastern European brass bands. Ethiopian audiences instantly recognize this sound as the soundtrack of their youth, carried from party to kitchen on the ubiquitous cassette tapes of the time. And increasingly, erudite American and European audiences are also getting hip to the Ethiopian groove, largely through CD reissues of Ethiopian classics on the Ethiopiques series – not so coincidentally, some of the same people who are behind the Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis.

Debo Band draws audiences from both mainstream America and Ethiopian American communities. They have opened for legendary Ethiopian greats such as Tilahun Gessesse and Getatchew Mekuria, who has lately been collaborating with Dutch punk veterans The Ex. Debo’s unique instrumentation, including horns, strings, and accordion, is a nod to the big bands of Haile Selassie’s Imperial Bodyguard Band and Police Orchestra. Their lead vocalist, Bruck Tesfaye, has the kind of pipes that reverberate with the sound of beloved Ethiopian vocalists like Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete. Although Debo Band is steeped in the classic big band sound of the 1960s and 70s, they also perform original compositions and new arrangements along with more contemporary sounds such as Roha Band and Teddy Afro.

Crossroads Music’s programming is in part supported by the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and the Samuel S. Fels Fund. This project is supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency, through the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts (PPA), its regional arts funding partnership. State government funding for the arts depends upon an annual appropriation by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. PPA is administered in this region by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 7:30 pm
Crossroads Music
48th Street and Baltimore Avenue in Philadelphia (Calvary United Methodist Church)
http://www.crossroadsconcerts.org or 215-729-1028

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