The journey continues. It began in South Africa, where Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand) participated in the country’s first jazz album by black musicians. But the tyranny of apartheid drove him away, ultimately to the US, where Duke Ellington championed the pianist. In the 1970s he made one of the greatest albums of all time, The Journey, and now here he is at 84, still exploring the intersection where his distinctive compositions, South African folk music, jazz and spontaneous improvisation collide.
He even revisits a song from The Journey: a reimagined Jabula (originally Jabulani) or Joy. The ensemble stop-times are much more syncopated and precise than 40 years ago, but alas it’s held to less than four minutes, and not allowed to explode into the torrential improvising vehicle of old. In fact all 10 pieces are under six minutes, when you feel them straining at the leash to become much longer investigations of the tunes. Nonetheless there’s a tension in keeping them short, with pithy little outbursts from Ibrahim and his horns (alto, tenor, baritone, trombone) over the bubbling rhythm section of Noah Jackson and Will Terrill, and the svelte little title track is a dream.