Abdullah Ibrahim: 3

Pianist Ibrahim, flautist and clarinettist Cleave Guyton and bassist Noah Jackson combine virtuosity and invention in London in 2023


The majority of these performances were recorded live at London’s Barbican Centre with the exceptions being the first five tracks of CD1 which were pre-recorded without an audience. The sell-out concert featured the paired down line-up which Abdullah Ibrahim has favoured over the last few years.

Much of the time the pianist and leader is happy to take a back seat, giving Guyton and Jackson plenty of exposure; how well they seize the opportunity, laying down their considerable musicianship, allied to impressive technique. The flautist has a welcoming warmth in the lower register of his instrument, contrasting with his remarkable control at the other end, much appreciated by the enthusiastic throng.

Similarly, Jackson’s mobility and big sound are crucial to this group, with Giant Steps giving him a solo outing none of the listeners could have anticipated. His presence gives the music impetus which can sometimes be lacking in drummer-less groups.

The tunes are mainly Ibrahim staples such as Water From An Ancient Well, The Wedding and Blue Bolero, which sit well with jazz standards In A Sentimental Mood, the aforementioned Giant Steps and Monk’s Skippy, blessed by bop-laden lines from Guyton.

As alluded to, the leader often takes a minor roll, choosing to add the odd fill, comp a little or kick a piece off before giving his bandmates the floor. But he does have four pieces to himself with Krotea-Crystal Clear carrying an ethereal quality that constrasts with the sometimes rambling, often bold Reprise items, containing references to familiar AI themes or those that appear to be so.

In summing up, this is a typical contemporary presentation from one of the great originals, offering moments of beauty, emotional highs and simply damn good music.

CD1: (1) Barakat; Tsakwe; (2) Krotoa-Crystal Clear; (1) Maraba; Ishmael; Mindif; In A Sentimental Mood; (3) Giant Steps; (2) Reprise 1; (1) Water From An Ancient Well (50.13)
CD2: Nisa; (4) The Wedding; (1) Tuang Guru; (2) Reprise 2; (1) Dreamtime; Skippy; (2) Blue Bolero ; (1) Mindif ; (4) Trance-Mission (56.28)

(1) Ibrahim (p); Cleave Guyton (f); Noah Jackson (b). London, 2023. (2) as (1) but Ibrahim only. (3) as (1) but Jackson only. (4) as (1) but Guyton (cl). (5) as (1) but Ibrahim (voice) only.
Gearbox GB1591CD