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Abdullah Ibrahim, then known as Dollar Brand, went into the studio with Max Roach on September 20, 1977. In his brief but all-encompassing notes, Roach says that there were no rehearsals and no plans as to what they were going to record. Sure, it is said that they were friends, and shared social and cultural backgrounds. Those are good points of reference but there has to be something more: a perspicacity, a feel, anticipation and vision that have to course through the blood and in the mind. Roach and Ibrahim are in the swell of the tide. Now that this recording is available once more, listen to two articulate imaginaries as they take you on their completely improvised journey, savor the experience and acknowledge, as well, the good sense that activated the re-release of the music.
The sum of the four tunes, witness the names given them, make up the breathtaking whole. The title tune runs just over 21 minutes, every one of which is a dynamic of exploration. Ibrahim sets up the mood in a virtuosic panoply of rich euphonic piano chording that Roach reinvents with a shifting timbral pulse. And then eloquence converges, the piano setting mood and pace and melody, the drums singing in tandem with the chromatic swells or chugging along and accenting rhythms that extend the constantly changing motifs. The flavor of “Inception” is subtle. Ibrahim probes and instils the spaces with a gradually evolving melodic thread. A jubilant, gospel air stirs “Acclamation” before it moves into the wont of Ibrahim, the happy land of an African melody, as spellbinding as it can be as he shapes varied patterns from the nucleus. If ever there was consanguinity between two musicians, this is proof positive.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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