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JazzTimes 10: Essential Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim Recordings

Ten pieces, in chronological order, that document the NEA Jazz Master's musical journey

Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio;2. Dollar Brand Trio: “The Stride” (Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio; Reprise, 1964)

Although it took the cajoling of Brand’s wife (singer Bea Benjamin) to get Duke Ellington out to hear him play in Switzerland, it’s immediately apparent what the jazz great heard in the young upstart exile. “The Stride,” the closing track from Brand’s debut LP (for which Ellington organized the session at his Reprise label), contains all the hallmarks of the pianist’s early sound. His debts to Ellington, Monk, and the AME church are readily apparent, as are his instantly memorable but mysterious melodies and his percussive force. It doesn’t take long for Brand’s originality to emerge, either: About 90 seconds in comes a bout of free-time clattering where the Monk and gospel influences fragment into something between counterpoint and carefully choreographed synergy courtesy of the same rhythm section as the Epistles’: Brand, Gertze, and Ntshoko. Then on the reprise come those polyrhythms again, sly but also pointed like a dagger to the ribs.

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.