Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Ethiópían” by Samúel Jón Samúelsson Big Band from the 2013 album 4 Hliðar self-released on SJS Music.
Close your eyes and listen to “Ethiópían”, or any song on Samúel Jón Samúelsson Big Band’s new album, 4 Hliðar, and try to guess the country of origin. You’d probably never guess Icelandic. But that’s beside the point. Trombonist Samúel Jón Samúelsson has gathered over a dozen of his fellow Icelanders for a devoted exploration of the afrobeat sound through his own original compositions. That’s not to say that the SJS doesn’t modernize his songs with generous infusions of modern jazz and funk grooves, but there’s no distinct “Icelandic twist” that many of his compatriots add to the styles and genres they borrow from. “Ethiópían” might as well have been written in Lagos or NYC as in Reykjavik, but it’s Samúel’s meticulous compositional weaving - honed through his past years with world-traveling Icelandic funk band JAGÚAR, and as arranger for a diverse group of artists like Sigur Rós, Hjálmar, Mugison and Ásgeir Trausti, among many others - that captivates you through eight and a half minutes of instrumental jams.
Samúel Jón Samúelsson Big Band was one of the 15 artists we broadcast from KEX Hostel during our broadcast at Iceland Airwaves this year. Check out photos from his set here and keep a lookout for videos from that session on the KEXP blog in the next week or so... because otherwise you’re really not going to get a chance to see SJS Big Band in action outside of Reykjavik any time soon. You don’t have to travel to can pick up 4 Hliðarthough. It’s available online through Records Records. Check out his Facebook page for more info and more funk!
For now, here’s Samúel Jón Samúelsson Big Band performing “Ahoba Rodney” from his previous album, Helvítis Fokking Funk, performed live at Vatnagardar studio last year: