Abdullah Ibrahim – Schomburg Center – October 20, 2014
I just love these old jazz masters whose command of technique is so thoroughly transparent that impediment-free channeling from their consciousness to mine is achieved; Ibrahim certainly fills the bill. He started with an extended solo full of spaces, dynamics, nuances, digressions. Next he worked with a smaller combo, with the bass player (I learned afterwards that his parents had come in from Detroit to see this gig) doubling for some of the segment on cello during a more classical-oriented excursion. Ibrahim was content to lay back for extended intervals, offering minimal subtle guidance while seeming to bask along with the audience in the creativity of the players. After intermission the band filled out with plenty more horns (it was billed as “and friends”), the polyphony got more complex, and the role of conductor for some of the horn section entrances and endings passed partially to Cleave Guyton. The South African (or Ibrahim’s particular) ensemble concept of playing together became more evident, even as the charts allowed the leader to add less on the piano – in a sense reminding me of Ellington’s approach. A companion concert at Carnegie Hall was in honor of Ibrahim’s 80th birthday – here he told us that this (freebie) was his birthday gift to NYC, and it was awesome!