Personalities | Abdullah Ibrahim | Seventies | Jazz & Blues

(Piano, b. 1934)

Born Adolphe Johannes ‘Dollar’ Brand in Capetown, South Africa, Abdullah Ibrahim successfully fused African rhythms and lilting melodic lines with the piano styles of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. In 1960, with trumpeter Hugh Masekela and others as the Jazz Epistles, he released the first contemporary South African jazz album. The racial climate in his country forced him and his wife, singer Sathima Bea Benjamin, to seek exile in Switzerland, where he met and recorded for Ellington.

Exposed to a wider audience through extensive jazz-festival work, the pianist played with Elvin Jones after the drummer left John Coltrane, and toured Europe with Don Cherry and others. Assuming his Muslim name in the 1970s, he worked frequently as a solo artist, but in 1976 he settled in New York City and established the sextet Ekaya; subsequently, he wrote soundtracks for French film director Claire Denis.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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