Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dollar Brand - 1973 - African Piano

Dollar Brand
1973 - African Piano

01. Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro 11:06
02. Selby That The Eternal Spirit Is The Only Reality 2:23
03. The Moon 8:08
04. Xaba 0:40
05. Sunset In Blue 4:25
06. Kippy 5:05
07. Jabulani - Easter Joy 2:06
08. Tintinyana 4:42

Dollar Brand - Piano

After cutting the first jazz record of the African continent, Verse I (september 1959), with Hugh Masekela's Jazz Epistles, in 1962 Southafrican pianist Adolph "Dollar" Brand (1934) relocated to Europe and then to New York. He debuted in the vein of Thelonious Monk, who was hardly avantgarde at that point, with Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Band Trio (february 1963), containing Ubu Suku and The Stride, followed by Round Midnight At The Montmartre (june 1965), also in a trio, that contained The Dream (both also contained Monk covers). Brand's musical ambitions were better represented by the five-part orchestral suite Anatomy of a South African Village (first recorded for trio in january 1965), the manifesto of his fusion of African rhythms, bebop piano and European classical music, and by collections of solo piano vignettes, permeated with a solemn and spiritual sense of nostalgy and often marked by disorienting dissonance: not so much the mediocre Reflections (march 1965), aka This Is Dollar Brand, as the brilliant African Piano (october 1969), that still contained extended pieces such as Bra Joe from Kilimanjaro and The Moon, and African Sketchbook (may 1969), a sequence of brief pieces (mostly under two minutes), the longest being African Sun and Tokai. These impressionsitic miniatures, organized in a stream of consciousness, struck a balance between post-bop techniques, romantic melody and Islamic ecstasy. Despite coming from a different continent, a different race and a different musical genre, Brand's piano music was not too dissimilar from Oliver Messaien's. In 1968 Brand had converted to Islam and changed name (as was fashionable at the time) to Abdullah Ibrahim.
The early 1970s were the age of Brand's majestic solo albums. Ancient Africa (june 1972), one long live medley of Brand compositions, was only the appetizer. One session produced material for two albums: African Portraits (february 1973) and Sangoma (february 1973). The latter, his masterpiece, contained the three-part suite The Alone And The Wild Rose, the six-part suite Fats Duke And the Monk and the side-long three-part suite Ancient Africa. Besides the much inferior Memories (december 1973) and Ode To Duke Ellington (december 1973), the other notably solo album of the era was African Breeze (february 1974). Good News From Africa (december 1973) was a duo with bassist Johnny Dyani.

That magic season was sealed by Brand's masterpiece for large ensemble, African Space Program (november 1973), that contained two suites, the 19-minute Tintiyana and the 23-minute Jabulani, for a twelve-piece unit (piano, three trumpeters, four saxophonists including Hamiet Bluiett, flutist Sonny Fortune, trombone, bass and drums) in the vein of Charles Mingus. Boswil Concert 1973 documents a live performance by Dollar Brand and his wife vocalist Bea Benjamin. Also notable were the Southafrican quintet session with alto saxophonist Robbie Jansen and legendary tenor Basil Coetzee, Mannenberg It's Where It's Happening (june 1974), aka Capetown Fringe, that included his Cape Town Fringe and The Pilgrim: Underground in Africa (march 1974), with three wild horns undermining Brand's bluesy piano during the 23-minute Kalahari; Soweto (june 1975), aka Africa Herbs, that included Soweto Is Where It's At, African Herbs and Sathima, three extended compositions for larger combos; Blues For A Hip King (november 1975), for a septet of piano, two saxophones, trumpet, trombone, bass and drums; The Children Of Africa (january 1976), with Cecil McBee on bass and Roy Brooks on drums, that contained Ishmael and Yukio-Khalifa; the saxophone quartet Black Lightning (august 1976), with the side-long Black Lightning; and The Journey (september 1977), for a nonet featuring Bluiett, Dyani and Don Cherry. There was little in these romantic fantasies that could be called "avantgarde".

An (almost) solo live gig recorded in a Scandinavian jazz club accompanied by much loud eating, drinking and conversation. It's hard to believe that anyone with a working set of ears would not be completely transfixed by this intense and committed performance - my meatballs would have certainly remained untouched until the last note had faded away. Thankfully, the background noise does not interfere with the listeners enjoyment. I first heard this record 20 years ago and even though I spent several of those years without a copy, the indelible impression left by this blend of South African folk melodies and modern jazz sensibility bound together with a constant muscular, supple rhythmic pulse and an almost tangible spiritual sincerity, has kept it as one of my most beloved of all albums. A "must buy" for any Dollar Brand fan, along with "Good News From Africa", the excellent album of duets with bass player (and fellow South African) Johnny Dyani.


  1. http://www.filefactory.com/file/2kk47c49h6p5/3713.rar

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. my bad... good catch


  4. His catalog is prolific & he continues to release albums as Abdullah Ibrahim to the present day. "Water from an Ancient Well" (1985) is a great listen & highly recommended, one of the best jazz records of the 80s really. The Dollar Brand stuff I have not heard, thanks.

  5. I have most of his albums, which in due time I will post, this was just to test the waters as part of my JAPO label posts... by the way the reviews on all these JAPO/EMC releases are not mine but from an excellent review blog called https://ecmreviews.com... I really liked them, so I just blatantly copied them, I'll add the credit in the body of the post.. coz It's not one or two that I copied, but for all the JAPO releases..lol