Ethio-Cali Resurfaced at The Blue Whale


The Blue Whale—Moby Dick’s favorite jazz club—hosted the last night of Ethio-Cali’s 2014 residency in Little Tokyo. It goes without saying, that the ethio-jazz collective submerged into deep musical waters without any sign of the bends.

The venue itself is nested at the top of a three story shopping center, surrounded by Japanese restaurants, shops, and a market. The first time you walk into the Blue Whale it’s like walking into a cave, dim lit with splashes of reds, yellows, greens, and blues. A bar, kitchen, and stage slowly materialize as you make your way in.

If you’re with several people show up a little early to set aside some seats. Try the kitchen’s sliders. They’ll detonate a myriad of flavors and have you shooting ninja stars out your mouth. (Bring your karate kid moves and headband, hiyah!) The kitchen wasn’t the only place that was cooking.

Horace Parlan — “Home is Africa”

Ethio Cali’s 10 piece stirred up their own brew on stage with Horace Parlan’s “Home is Africa”—a befitting spiritual homage to the band’s musical roots. Its brisk high hat groove included blue notes and pirouetting ivory lines that really exemplify that bluejazz shimmer. The brass section’s sullen legatos and diminuendos really painted the final brush stroke of a rainy city night. (Get your noir coat and detective hat, there’s more.)

Horace Silver — “Calcutta Cutie”

Their rendition of Horace Silver’s “Calcutta Cutie” made you want to start snapping your fingers. These kind of adventurous and sophisticated sounds are more and more a delicacy on the West Coast.


Their set also included “Gbomojo” a nigerian piece from Segun Bucknor’s Revolution—very heavy bass groove, laced with funky guitar, vibrato keys, and cathartic sax. The whole song channeled Fela Kuti and sounded like it would be in Quantic’s sample library. Jazz certainly dominated their set that night.

The primordial and brooding brass theme of Charles Mingus’s “Meditations on Integration” depicted a rocky terrain. Its repetition created an eerie feeling that you were watching the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Oddysey or The Twilight Zone (cue the giant monochrome spiral). When the time change hit you swear you had just came out of warp-speed and landed in another time and place—Mingus’s true genius.

Charles Mingus — “Meditations on Integration”

Catch Ethio-Cali at The World Stage for their 2014 Kwanzaa Celebration in Leimert Park, December 26th-30th.

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