Adolph Johannes Brand was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1934. He adopted the stage name Dollar Brand for his first few recordings, before changing his name to Abdullah Ibrahim on his conversion to Islam in 1968. The recording dates of both these sets are from that brief period between the burst of South African jazz and when Ibrahim and fellow musicians fled apartheid in 1962.
Reissue with the latest DSD remastering. Dollar Brand playing solo – but with a vibrancy that hardly makes you miss the other instruments at all! Most of the record features solo piano, but there's also a bit of bamboo flute as well – leading off the set and establishing this great organic vibe to the whole thing, which is then followed by Brand's long-spun, completely hypnotic lines on piano! The recording quality is wonderful – very clear and strong, and quite resonant too – and the set features two side-long long suites – "Africa" and "Reflection" – with shorter passages that move through the warm range of moods you'd find in Brand's other strong work from the time. Titles include "Ancient Africa", "Msunduza", "Single Petal Of A Rose", and "African Sun".
Still known as Dollar Brand at the time of this recording, Abdullah Ibrahim had his first encounter with a large ensemble on African Space Program, and the results are quite successful. Despite a muddy sound quality, this is music built on infectious themes and played with verve by a fine cast of instrumentalists. The first part of "Tintiyana," entirely written, is redolent of Ellington and Mingus, all churning low tones and percussion. When the second portion begins, the mood turns celebratory with a striding, gospel-imbued theme supporting heroic solos from all involved. Several of the musicians on hand were generally involved with the avant-garde end of the jazz spectrum at the time, and their playing is full of bite and a risk-taking nature that greatly enlivens the proceedings.
The extraordinary South African pianist meets his countryman, the late, very great bassist Johnny Dyani, and the result is one of the single most beautiful recordings of the '70s. The duo mix in traditional African and Islamic songs and perform with a fervor and depth of feeling rarely heard in or outside of jazz. From the opening traditional Xhosa song, "Ntsikana's Bell," the rich, sonorous approach of these two musicians is evident, both singing in stirring fashion, Ibrahim guttural and serious, Dyani as free and light as a swallow. Ibrahim treats the listener to some of his all-too-rarely heard flute work on the following track, using Kirk-ian techniques of sung overtones in a gorgeous original.
This is one of Abdullah Ibrahim's most colorful band recordings. With a 12-piece group that includes altoist Carlos Ward, trombonist Craig Harris and bassist Cecil McBee along with some lesser-known names, Ibrahim performs eight folklike originals that pay tribute to his life growing up in South Africa. "The Homecoming Song," "Anthem for the New Nation" and especially "The Wedding" (a beautiful hymn) are particularly memorable.
A somewhat surprising pairing at the time, the former firebrand of the tenor sax and the wonderful South African pianist found a pleasant and relaxed meeting point. By 1978, Shepp had largely abandoned the ferocious attack that gained him renown in the '60s, settling on a rich, Ben Webster-ish tone and playing a repertoire consisting of modern standards and bluesy originals. Two such pieces, the lovely Dave Burrell/Marion Brown composition "Fortunato" and Mal Waldron's "Left Alone," are highlights of this session, Shepp's burnished tone as soft as an old shoe.