September 11, 2019
Cadogan Hall, LondonPerforming solo, the 84-year-old South African pianist treats melody with reverence – then instinctively, skilfully dismantles it
Abdullah Ibrahim review – 50 dazzling years of jazz distilled
There is a quality to pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s music that makes it sound like a slow, sad goodbye. That may be because he spent the majority of the 1960s to the 1990s in self-imposed exile from his home country of South Africa – a protest against the racial segregation of apartheid – or it may be to do with the soft, downtempo way he picks out each note hunched behind his grand piano, improvising as if he is forever playing towards the end of a phrase.
Now 84, Ibrahim has had a more varied career than most, pioneering the “Cape jazz” style of the 1960s, heavily influenced by the likes of Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, before moving to New York to collaborate with Ellington himself and even leading the Duke Ellington Orchestra under his previous stage name, Dollar Brand, then converting to Islam, then returning to South Africa in the 70s to write Mannenberg, which became one of the most famous anti-apartheid anthems of the era.
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