Out January 26 via Gearbox Records
“The sound and spirit of Abdullah Ibrahim are potent as ever”
“There are few musicians in jazz who can make you feel that essentially all is right in the world.”
–The Times (UK)
“People don’t like Abdullah Ibrahim, they adore him, bestowing on him the devotion normally reserved for Nina Simone. When he plays, melodies tumble out effortlessly, as he slides from theme to theme like a laid-back South African reincarnation of Thelonious Monk.”
“Ibrahim continues to push boundaries while keeping hold of his township roots”
★★★★★ (for The Balance)
–London Evening Standard
“Stark pianism and gently rapturous compositions are steeped in the bright harmonies and bouncing rhythms of [Ibrahim’s] native Cape Town.”
–New York Times
“Lovely… evoking the sensation of being unbound from linear time.”
“When it comes to sitting alone at a piano and manifesting all the beauty the instrument has to give—along with the best of everything he has inside–Ibrahim is one of the best.”
Today, legendary South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim returns with the news of a new album titled 3 – which is due out January 26 via Gearbox Records. To mark the announcement, Ibrahim has shared a new recording of “Mindif.”
The new album announcement comes on the heels of the Octogenarian’s birthday concerts at Hirzinger Hall, which took place on October 14 and 15. The concerts, which take place in the East of Germany, are by now a tradition. The grand hall is famous for its incredible acoustics, and a solo piano performance by the NEA jazz master one of its annual highlights. It was also the location in which his critically acclaimed album Solotude was recorded during in lockdown.
HEAR / SHARE “MINDIF” HERE
Taken from his recent sold-out headline date at London’s Barbican Centre, the new album 3 follows suit and is spread across two performances – the first is recorded without an audience recorded ahead of the concert straight to analogue on a 1” Scully tape machine, which had previously been used by Elvis at the famous Memphis-based Sun Studios. The second recording is taken from the evening’s performance itself with Ibrahim performing in a unique trio which includes Cleave Guyton (flute, piccolo, saxophone) who has performed alongside the likes of Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, and Joe Henderson, as well as lauded bassist and cellist Noah Jackson, both of which are members of Ekaya and featured on Ibrahim’s top 3 Billboard Jazz album The Balance.
The recordings feature a number of special new tracks and moving arrangements influenced by the music of Ibrahim’s upbringing (gospel and jive, American jazz and classical music, sacred and secular), and arrangements of tracks by his friends and heroes such as Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, all interwoven by his fluidic and ebullient playing style. The recording also features spellbinding vocal performances from Ibrahim creating a powerful, pin-drop moment with heartbreaking songs about the pain of slavery sung in both an indigenous language and English. The whole thing is accentuated by the lack of percussion which highlights both the more poignant moments as well as the more energetic moments.
The first track to be lifted from the record titled “Mindif” is taken from the live recording, closing out the evening’s performance with a masterful balance of intimacy, catharsis, and introspection, as Guyton and Jackson ebb and flow around Ibrahim’s passionate playing. The track’s runtime clocks in at seven-minutes but the final three are entirely the rapturous applause of the audience – a fitting end to such a performance.
Abdullah Ibrahim (who has also recorded as Dollar Brand) is one of South Africa’s most famous musicians. 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”. 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.
Abdullah Ibrahim was also recently awarded “The Order of the Rising Sun” by Japan’s government – one of the country’s top honours. Abdullah was one of several foreign recipients of the 2020 Spring Imperial awards conferred by His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan. The award was being given to Abdullah in recognition of his lifetime achievement in emancipating the people of South Africa and the world through his music, as well as his contribution to Japan-South African friendship through his works, performances and profound understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality.
This is something that is exemplified perfectly in Ibrahim’s ongoing project at his 800-hectare farm in the Green Kalahari. The project engages the local community and neighbouring Botswana and Namibia, focussing on music, movement, medicine, meditation and Satoyama-biodiversity – the Japanese cosmology of conservation and creating a harmonious co-existence between humans and nature.
Recently speaking to Arts24, Ibrahim says, “The idea is that we incorporate all of this. I call it Satoyama Africa which is this biodiversity with music, astrophysics, and farm produce. For young people, the idea is to come there and engage in this. And for young musicians for example, composing in this dynamic. We have the ancient earth, and we have our sights beyond the milky way.”
The project continues to grow as Ibrahim performs around the world.
“3” is out 12th January via Gearbox Records – pre-order HERE
Cat no: GB1591CD (CD) / GB1591(3LP)
3. Krotoa – Crystal Clear
1. In A Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington)
2. Giant Steps (John Coltrane)
3. Piano Solo 1
4. Water From An Ancient Well
6. The Wedding
7. Tuang Guru
8. Piano Solo 2
10. Skippy (Thelonious Monk)
11. Blue Bolero (Reprise)
12. Abdullah’s song
Abdullah Ibrahim; Fazioli F278 concert grand piano
Cleave Guyton Jr.; flute, piccolo
Noah Jackson; double bass, cello
Recorded at the Barbican Hall, July 15th 2023
Volume 1 was recorded directly to reel-to-reel tape without an audience
Volume 2 is a digital recording of the live concert performance later that evening
Lacquers cut on a Haeco Scully lathe with Westrex RA1700 series amps, Westrex 3DIIA cutting head; monitored on Audio Note equipment
All compositions by Abdullah Ibrahim unless stated otherwise
Produced by Darrel Sheinman