6. Abdullah Ibrahim: “Just You, Just Me” (African Dawn; Enja, 1982)
By the time of 1982’s solo outing African Dawn, “Dollar Brand” had evaporated entirely from the billing. Ibrahim was Ibrahim, and though then as now he primarily focused on his own compositions, he still had an affection for the standard repertoire. There’s a sly pleasure behind the somewhat grim determination of Ibrahim’s playing on Jesse Greer’s “Just You, Just Me,” the latter being constantly brought home with his hammerlike insistence on a bass drone. Still, he briefly lets the mask slip in the gleeful center of the tune, swinging away with references to stride in the rhythm and to gospel in the harmony. The dark drone quickly reasserts itself, but Ibrahim continues to hint here and there that he’s enjoying himself. His closing, an Ellingtonian trill, finally gives the game away.