Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


IBRAHIM, Abdullah

(b Adolph Johannes Brand, 9 Oct. '34, Cape Town) Piano, composer, once known as Dollar Brand, his style a successful synthesis of jazz with African feeling. Piano lessons at age seven; converted to Islam '68 but records may be listed in catalogues under either name. Played with Tuxedo Slickers, Streamline Brothers, Willie Max big band; first album as leader with sextet Jazz Epistles incl. Hugh Masekela; at least five more, mostly trio sets, in SA '60--62. He went to Europe; Duke Ellington heard them in Zurich and got a deal for Duke Ellington Presents The Dollar Brand Trio on Reprise '63, made in Paris. Anatomy Of A South African Village on Fontana/Black Lion and live The Dream on Black Lion (both also on Freedom, the latter on Jazz Music Yesterday CD) were made '65 in Copenhagen, all with Johnny Gertze on bass, Makaya Ntshoko on drums. Married singer Bea Benjamin '65; he was soon internationally famous, touring the world, often solo; played more instruments from '60s: recorded on African flutes, soprano sax. (A Morning In Paris on Enja was Bea's beautiful album with his trio plus Svend Asmussen, Ellington and Billy Strayhorn guesting, made '63, finally issued '97.) His solo piano LPs (with occasional vocals and flute) incl. African Sketchbook '63 on Enja, This Is Dollar Brand '65 on Black Lion, African Piano '69 on Spectator (Denmark, later on ECM); African Portraits and Sangoma on Sackville (made in Toronto, the latter reissued on CD as Fats, Duke And The Monk), Ode To Duke Ellington on Inner City and Memories on Japanese Philips made in Ludwigsburg, all '73; African Breeze '74 on East Wind and Anthem For The New Nations '78 on Denon, both made in Japan; Nisa '78 on African Violets made in Stuttgart; Matsidiso (named after baby daughter) and South African Sunshine '80 both on German Pl„ne label; African Dawn '82 on Enja. Duo sets incl. Ancient Africa '72, made in Copenhagen with an unknown drummer (another source [or another album of the same name] says made in Toronto '73); Streams Of Consciousness '77 on Baystate with Max Roach, Good News From Africa '73 and Echoes From Africa '79, both on Enja with Johnny Dyani on bass, vocals, bells.

The Children Of Africa '76 on Enja had Cecil McBee on bass, Roy Brooks on drums (b 2 Sep. '38, Detroit); other albums reveal formidable talent as composer/arranger: African Space Program '73 on Enja made by a twelve-piece group incl. Cecil Bridgewater, Hamiet Bluiett, McBee and Brooks. Discographies are confused, but apparently he made more LPs for SA Gallo, Koh-i-Noor, Sun labels: some say Soweto and Black Lightning were made early '60s, Capetown Fringe in '70s, last aka Mannenberg on an African issue; but all were also issued on Chiaroscuro USA and all were sextet sets with Basil 'Mannenberg' Coetzee on tenor (Mannenberg also a town in SA). A septet LP made for Gallo '75 (in SA according to one source) also incl. Mannenberg (as well as Blue Mitchell and Harold Land) and also may be the legendary Mannenberg album; to confuse things still further, Blues For A Hip King and Tintinyana were available on Kaz UK '88, probably compilations, incl. variously Mitchell, Land, Coetzee etc. Journey was a nonet with Bluiett, Dyani and Don Cherry, the beautiful Buddy Tate Meets Abdullah Ibrahim a quartet with McBee and Brooks, both made in NYC '77 for Chiaroscuro. Quartet set Africa: Tears And Laughter '79 on Enja was made in Stuttgart, African Marketplace '79 on Elektra (Discovery CD) in NYC by twelve- piece band incl. McBee, Dollar Brand/Live at Montreux '80 on Enja is a quintet with Carlos Ward, Duke's Memories '81 on String and Zimbabwe '83 on Enja are quartets; Ekaya '83 on Ekapa a septet made in NJ with Ricky Ford and McBee. Living in NYC, he called the group Ekaya; gig at Sweet Basil was filmed for TV documentary with Ford, Ben Riley on drums; released beautiful Water From An Ancient Well on Blackhawk '86 (later on Tip Toe CD). The emotional wellspring of his music is still South African: the regime there bulldozed and tried to obliterate the neighbourhood where he grew up, but it did not go away. Like Ellington, he mistrusts the label 'jazz': 'We simply call it the music of the people.' Yarona '95 on Tip Toe is a trio set live at Sweet Basil; Knysna Blue is also on Tip Toe; Autobiography is on Plainisphere, and there are still more CDs on Enja. He has outlived apartheid; the beauty and joy in his music will outlive us all.