“Could you please hold it a moment?” Abdullah Ibrahim asks, staving off my question. “Just so I can prepare my tea.”
We are sitting in a small conference room at Ibrahim’s Washington, D.C. hotel a day after he’d been honored at the Kennedy Center’s 2019 NEA Jazz Masters tribute concert. A server stands before us, pouring hot water. Ibrahim isn’t brusque in pre-empting me; he doesn’t even seem particularly annoyed. But the 84-year-old South African pianist and composer personifies dignity. He insists on a certain respect, a certain protocol.