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Friday, June 06, 2008

Abdullah Ibrahim - African Concerto

AbdullahIbrahim3[1]The South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim is growing ever more content to get out of the way of his best stories, and let others shine new light on them. Since he entered his 60s as the apartheid regime ended in 1994, his elder-statesman status as the African Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk combined (and his role as an educator and political campaigner) has increasingly brought him big-canvas projects like this one.
The first half of this monumental (and occasionally long-winded) show featured Ibrahim, his inspirational arranger and piano deputy Steve Gray, and the BBC Big Band. Ibrahim played a now typically quiet, softly-stroked piano overture, but the set soon picked up steam through the composer's tributes to his influences. A mellifluously tender trombone tribute to Duke Ellington's Laurence Brown (Ibrahim depped in Ellington's band in 1966) was followed by a brilliant Steve Gray arrangement of Monk's I Mean You, seething with swooping countermelodies, and setting up Ibrahim's own For Monk. The set closed on the roaring townships's dance For Mandela, featuring Dave O'Higgins' wailing tenor sax.
Some of the crooner harmonies for a classy second-half vocal group including Ian Shaw and Cleveland Watkiss were borderline cheesy, but Watkiss's soulful warmth made a beautiful job of Ibrahim's Blue Bolero, and the group bopped animatedly on Monk's spiky Evidence. Steve Gray's arrangements of Ibrahim's Desert Flowers pieces for the BBC Concert Orchestra's premiere of African Concerto added glittering colours and sharp turns to the composer's deceptively simple themes without undermining their lyricism - sympathetic enhancements worthy of Gil Evans's settings for Miles Davis. Ian Shaw raised the roof on a falsetto soul account of the classic theme of The Wedding just before Ibrahim's closing piano reverie.

African Concerto
The Mountain
Duke 88
Blue Bolero
Song for Aggrey
Cape Town
Evidence/Monk In Harlem

MisuAbdullah Ibrahim African Concerto - Barbican center 05-08
just arrived
district 6
the boys of symetry song
the ramadan call at dusk
African Market


LOCATION / VENUELondon  Babican CenterDATE14–05–08


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