Dan Ouellette on Abdullah Ibrahim:
The South African-born, Germany-based Abdullah Ibrahim was awarded a NEA Jazz Masters award in 2019. Known as Dollar Brand until his conversion to Islam in 1968, the pianist lived under the South African regime of apartheid, was exiled for playing jazz, was discovered by Duke Ellington while living and playing in Zurich, and launched into the jazz scene as a young upstart who jammed with Coleman Hawkins and became influenced by Thelonious Monk. He said recently, “I introduced myself to Monk, and I said, ‘I'm from South Africa, I think you’re great and thank you very much for inspiring me.’ He looked at me quizzically and walked around the room a couple of times and came back again and said that I was the first piano player to tell him that.” On his return to perform at the inauguration of Nelson Mandala, the new president of free South Africa called him “our Mozart.” Today the maestro of improvisation continues to enchant. “It’s the idea of being free,” he said. “It’s almost like abandonment, just playing with your feel and forgetting about the notes.”
Ouellette, Dan, "Abdullah Ibrahim Interview by Dan Ouellette" (2019). Jazz Interviews Archive. 47.
Additional FilesAbdullah Ibrahim Interview by Dan Ouellette July 2019.pdf (43 kB)