EFG London Jazz Festival Summer Series – 15 July 2023
South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim is always met with a warm reception whenever he performs in London. As part of the 2023 EFG London Jazz Festival Summer Series, the 88-year-old musician led the Abdullah Ibrahim Trio at the Barbican on 15th July, captivating the crowd with every note.
Spotlight on Cleave Guyton and Noah Jackson
While Ibrahim is the star of the show, the talented Cleave Guyton (flutes and clarinet) and Noah Jackson (double bass and cello) also shared the spotlight throughout the 90-minute performance.
Guyton and Jackson started the set with their rendition of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” displaying their exceptional skill and tone. Following that, Jackson wowed the audience with a solo performance of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” on bass.
The Legacy of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
Duke Ellington and John Coltrane left a significant impact on Abdullah Ibrahim’s career. In the 1970s, Ibrahim and his partner, Sathima Bea Benjamin, fled apartheid-era South Africa and found refuge in Switzerland. They met several American jazz musicians, including Ellington, Coltrane, Max Roach, and Abbey Lincoln, during their time at Zurich’s Club Africana.
Ellington’s introduction to the Dollar Brand Trio, as Ibrahim’s ensemble was known back then, led to the famous “Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio” and Sathima’s “A Morning in Paris” recordings. Ibrahim later moved to New York City and befriended other notable jazz artists, such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman.
A Moving Performance
The audience embraced the performance of “Water from an Ancient Well,” a song from Ibrahim’s 1985 album with his group Ekaya. The African blues piece showcased Jackson’s empathetic bass playing and Guyton’s birdlike, buoyant flute.
“The Wedding,” another track from the same album, was another highlight, featuring Jackson’s melodious cello technique. Throughout the concert, Ibrahim’s evocative and magisterial touch on the piano shone through in pieces like “Blue Bolero,” “Mindiff,” and “Nisa.”
Despite his age and frailty, Abdullah Ibrahim remains a force to be reckoned with as an elder statesman of jazz piano. The memorable performance by the Abdullah Ibrahim Trio at the Barbican, as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival Summer Series, will undoubtedly be cherished by all who attended.