Abdullah Ibrahim

At its best, there’s a quiet majesty to the music of Abdullah Ibrahim, the South African pianist-composer once known as Dollar Brand, and his new solo CD, Senzo (on the German WDR label’s Cologne Broadcasts series), is his most stirring album in years. He was discovered in 1963, at the age of 30, by no less than Duke Ellington, who produced his first recording, then lured him to the States, where he played with Elvin Jones before going on to form his own bands. In the ‘70s, he found his full voice—a swaying pastiche of jazz, spiritual and Capetown rhythms—and, over the course of a few years, recorded a staggering number of great albums: Live at Sweet Basil, Vol. 1 (there was no Vol. 2) and Duke’s Memories with the saxophonist Carlos Ward, Good News from Africa with the bassist Johnny Dyani, Streams of Consciousness with drummer Max Roach, Duet with saxophonist Archie Shepp (the most lyrical album Shepp ever made), and African Marketplace, The Mountain, and Ekaya with his octet known as Ekaya.

All of these albums are out of print, and several are hard to find, which makes Senzo all the more vital. Ibrahim’s playing doesn’t quite swing, but his indigo harmonies and rocky river-flowing rhythms have a mesmerizing appeal; and on this album, the song “Nisa” in particular has a sensuous buoyancy that renders the point moot. The sound quality is very good—warm and percussive and ripe with ambience.

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andy_c's picture

Thanks for bringing this under-appreciatedartist to the attention of Stereophilereaders.I first found out about him in a strangeway. I was an early adopter of CD, and inthe early days, jazz selection was not good.He was recording on the Denon label at thattime, and Denon was aggressively releasingCDs. I saw some CDs of his, along with some other Denon releases of Archie Shepp, so Ithought I'd give them a try. I'm glad Idid!Many of his songs have a haunting, anthem-like quality to them. He is a minimalist,never wasting a single note. This may putoff some people who are looking for sheervirtuosity and showmanship. But I havefound that it's minimalism that best standsthe test of time.

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horea's picture

hi. thanks 4 the info. just got tonight the duet w/Roack and i found on the rack the one with ward " Sweet Basil". i collect duets, so i have a question because i have the others you listed. r u sure that duke's memories is a duet with ward? and not a larger band? tx.amazon does not have the info. just found it: it is a Quartet.so you forgot the most important one: the duet with gato barbieri, hamba khale, a milestone in free jazz/avantgarde.a fewrs ago i had the opportunity to listen to him live, solo, at yoshy's in oakland. lots of expectations and anticipation. it was the "worst" jazz concert i went in my life. he was flat, dusty, lifeless. all the qualities his music brings were MIA.at the end of the set i ran out to stay in line and to get in free 4 the second set. met some other people who even if they were not as negative as me they were still disappointed. we hoped 4 a better one. it was but not too much. the time the music was in the wrong place, the res. maybe it needed a more intimate one

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