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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

Sotho Blue9. Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: “The Wedding” (Sotho Blue; Sunnyside, 2010)

Like his heroes Monk and Ellington, Ibrahim puts as much of himself into revisiting and revitalizing the tunes in his existing book as he does into composing new material. “The Wedding” was first recorded in 1975 and has surely been around for longer, appearing in myriad variations and arrangements. But there’s something irresistible in this plainspoken setting for Cleave Guyton, Ekaya’s longtime alto saxophonist. The band’s other horns act as his background, Ibrahim and the rhythm section laying out entirely. There is no improvisation, just Guyton laying out the written melody, with an effect of intimacy, warmth, and unadulterated, beautiful sentiment. Even without Ibrahim’s being audibly present, this take on “The Wedding” is as firm a reminder of any of his terrific musical gifts.

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.