Preview: Abdullah Ibrahim – ‘The Balance’

❉ Jazz legend set to release his first new album in four years.

Credit: Gabriel Bertogg

Abdullah Ibrahim (who has also recorded as Dollar Brand) is one of South Africa’s most famous musicians. He’s played with everyone from Duke Ellington to Max Roach, John Coltrane to Ornette Coleman, and is the father of underground rapper Jean Grae.

Now, at the age of 84, Ibrahim is set to release his first new album in four years entitled The Balance. Featuring his band Ekaya, the new album was recorded over the course of a day in London at RAK Studios last November. Featuring a number of full band arrangements, Ibrahim also recorded several of solo, improvised piano pieces. Full of encompassing Township-Jazz, solo piano, highlife and plentiful modern jazz styles, the instrumentation is broad, and includes harmonica, cello, and piccolo. In his own words, “With Ekaya, I am blessed in that I have all these textural opportunities.”

Going on to speak about the album, he says “We push ourselves out of our comfort zones. So that we can present to the listener our striving for excellence. So that we can engage with our listeners without any barriers of our ego. It’s not jazz. For us, it’s a process of transcending barriers. Technically it’s very, very skilled, but there’s simplicity in the complexity so that people can relate to it. It’s a natural rhythm of the universe. We’ve been looking at recording for some time. But we were looking for the correct vehicle. Someone who understands what we’re doing.”

You can check out the title track for ‘The Balance’ here:

On April 15th 2019, Abdullah was also received into the NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, the highest honour the United States bestows upon jazz musicians. Watch “NEA Jazz Masters: Tribute: To Abdullah Ibrahim” here:

Born under the apartheid regime, where jazz music was seen as an act of resistance, his music is often referred to as representing freedom. 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, and he even performed at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, where Mandela referred to him as “our Mozart”.

Abdullah Ibrahim has been the subject of several documentaries: for instance, Chris Austin’s 1986 BBC film A Brother with Perfect Timing, and A Struggle for Love, by Ciro Cappellari (2004). He has also composed scores for film, including the award-winning soundtrack for Claire Denis’s Chocolat (1988), and he was featured in the 2002 production Amandla: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony.

For more than a quarter-century he has toured the world extensively, appearing at major concert halls, clubs and festivals, giving sell-out performances, as solo artist or with other renowned artists (notably, Max Roach, Carlos Ward and Randy Weston). His collaborations with classical orchestras have resulted in acclaimed recordings, such as African Suite (1999, with members of the European Union Youth Orchestra) and the Munich Radio Philharmonic orchestra symphonic version, “African Symphony” (2001), which also featured the trio and the NDR Jazz Big Band.

Abdullah Ibrahim celebrated his seventieth birthday in October 2004, which occasion was marked by the release of two CDs by Enja Records (the Munich-based label with whom he has recorded for three decades): the compilation A Celebration, and Re:Brahim, his music remixed. His discography runs to well over a hundred album credits.

Recently, Abdullah was named a Jazz Master as part of the 2019 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), alongside Maria Schneider and Stanley Crouch. His latest album, The Balance, celebrates his work with long-time band Ekaya.

Abdullah Ibrahim remains at his zenith, as a musician and a tireless initiator of new projects.

The Balance is a major return for a genuine living jazz legend and will be released via analog specialists Gearbox Records, who have recently released key London jazz records by artists such as Binker and Moses, Sarathy Korwar, and Theon Cross, as well as legendary names such as Dwight Trible, Thelonious Monk, Yussef Lateef and more


Abdullah Ibrahim – ‘The Balance’ released via Gearbox Records, June 28, 2019.

News source: Prescription PR.

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