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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

The Journey5. Dollar Brand: “Jabulani (Joy)” (The Journey; Chiaroscuro, 1977)

Abdullah Ibrahim (whose name had begun by this time to appear along with the Dollar Brand moniker) credits Don Cherry with steering him toward a return to his African folk roots in the 1970s. If The Journey is any indication, Cherry (who appears on the album) also steered him toward the avant-garde. After articulating the highly celebratory tune—packaged in one of Brand’s most elegant arrangements—his nonet detonates into atonal free-blowing. Baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, followed by Cherry, do characteristically impassioned, penetrating work. So do alto saxophonists Talib Kibwe and Carlos Ward, as well as Ibrahim in a surprise turn on soprano, with the horns all appearing in counterpoint with the rhythm section at the song’s climax. The real tour-de-force improvisation on “Jabulani,” however, is probably that of South African bassist Johnny Akhir Dyani, who slips in and out of accents and personae (and tempi, and registers) with the versatility of Meryl Streep. Like “Mannenberg,” “Jabulani” has become part of Ibrahim’s permanent repertoire, receiving a revisitation on his 2019 album The Balance.

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.