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Abdullah Ibrahim, from Jazz Lugano in 1981 this week. One of the primary figures in the South African Jazz scene since the early 1960s, Ibrahim, who was then known as Dollar Brand, used his many musical influences from growing up and living in the port city of Cape Town, to shape a sub-genre of Jazz known as Cape Jazz. But also to bring his distinct African sound to the rest of the world. First starting in 1959 as part of the South African group The Jazz Epistles, which also included fellow South African Hugh Masekela. They were also the first Black African group to record an lp in 1960.
But South Africa, as it was during that period of apartheid, was heavily suppressive, and it forced The Jazz Epistles to break up and Ibrahim, as well as Hugh Masekela along with many others, to migrate north to Europe if they were going to get anywhere with their music and their identity. In 1962, Ibrahim settled in Zurich with his wife and it was there that he met Duke Ellington, while the Ellington band were on a European tour. Ellington was impressed and immediately set up a session with Reprise Records. The result was the album Duke Ellington Presents The Dollar Brand Trio and a long-lasting relationship based on mutual musical admiration. Ellington became actively engaged in bringing American jazz to Africa and Ibrahim was actively engaged in bringing African influences to American Jazz.
Since the end of Apartheid, Ibrahim has divided his time between his home in New York and his other home in Capetown. This performance from the Lugano Jazz Festival, which features his Quartet; Carlos Ward on sax and flute, Rachiim Ausur on Bass, and Andrey Strobert on drums is one of the regular festivals he has been very much a part of.
If this concert whet your appetite, you have some 55 Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim albums to jump into.
Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.