DEXTER STORY: WONDEM
(Wondem is available from Soundway Records on Oct. 23)
Dexter Story is a prolific artist and multi-genre musician who has worked with well-regarded artists such as the Gaslamp Killer Experience and contributed to compositions for the amazing Ethiopian jazz ensemble Ethio Cali, fronted by Todd Simon and featuring local legends like Kamasi Washington. Now Story returns with his second solo album. Co-produced by Carlos Niño with recording and writing by Story himself, Wondem is an album inspired by a love of soul, jazz, and funk via the sounds of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya. To combine these vastly different musics into a cohesive experience is no simple feat, but the result is quite interesting and enjoyable and Story somehow makes it sound easy. Fans of the Mulatu Astatke sound will enjoy the first single “Lalibela,” which starts with a mesmerizing repeating keyboard track and rhythmic drumming, joined by the horn section and melodic vocals. Other standouts include “Without An Address,” featuring a Sudanese-born singer Alsarah whose singing is nothing short of enchanting. “Merkato Star” is another hit, which starts off with a handclap rhythm as horns fade in as if from a great distance, setting up the song to build to colossal heights. Over all, this is another great contribution to the burgeoning and diverse jazz scene developing in Los Angeles today.