2019 album. South African Jazz. Also available on CD.
The living legend that is Abdullah Ibrahim is releasing his first new studio album in over 4 years ‘The Balance’. Abdullah Ibrahim (who has also recorded as Dollar Brand) is one of South Africa's most famous musicians. His music is often referred to as representing freedom. And this 84 year old musical hero’s discography goes back sixty years, and although there are longer periods between his releases than there used to be, Ibrahim has retained all his grit and jubilance. The pianist and composer continues to make gloriously uplifting music steeped in its South African roots, in a style which still carries echoes of his formative overseas influences, Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk. Ibrahim has played with everyone from Duke Ellington to Max Roach, John Coltrane to Ornette Coleman and is the father of underground rapper Jean Grae.
‘The Balance’, which is Ibrahim's first new album in four years, will delight anyone who has enjoyed landmark discs such as ‘Anatomy Of A South African Village’ (Fontana, 1965), ‘Water From An Ancient Well’ (Tiptoe, 1985) and ‘Yarona’ (Tiptoe, 1995). Nine of the ten tunes are Ibrahim originals, with Monk's "Skippy" the only cover. Ibrahim is accompanied on most tracks by Ekaya, the mid-size band he formed in 1983. The group has been through numerous personnel changes but Ibrahim's orchestrations have remained constant, blending the rugged beauty of township jazz, the positivity of African American gospel and sumptuous Ellingtonian flourishes. Encompassing Township-Jazz, solo piano, Highlife and plentiful modern jazz styles, this brand new studio album (recorded with his band Ekaya at RAK Studios in London) is a major return for a genuine living Jazz legend.
The Times once nailed Ibrahim's appeal thus: "There are few musicians in jazz who can make you feel that essentially all is right in the world." All is far from right in the world in 2019, but Ibrahim truly does make you feel otherwise."
His major anti-apartheid anthem ‘Mannenberg’ (released as ‘Capetown Fringe’ in the US) has come to be regarded as an unofficial national anthem in South Africa. He even performed at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, where Mandela referred to him as “our Mozart.” His political engagement did not stop when in 1963 he exiled himself from apartheid South Africa, or when South Africa finally freed itself from apartheid—but he has always been energised by the injustices he sees around him and he raises the listener up alongside him. Ibrahim is an international treasure and ‘The Balance’ is one of 2019's standout releases.