Abdullah Ibrahim – Bombella

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Abdullah Ibrahim
LABELS: Intuition
PERFORMER: Abdullah Ibrahim (piano), WDR Big Band Cologne/Steve Gray


Named after the train that transported migrant workers to the mines in South Africa, Bombella takes an hour-and-a-quarter journey through the career of pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. Ibrahim (previously Dollar Brand) was famously ‘spotted’ in Europe by Duke Ellington after fleeing the apartheid regime. And, thanks to the WDR Big Band Cologne, this disc of tightly controlled arrangements does justice to that Ellington influence.

With tracks cherry-picked from previous discs, notably Water From an Ancient Well, his reflective, serene – at times melancholic – piano vamps, open into vast big band soundscapes, delivered with intricate precision by band arranger Steve Gray.


Ibrahim’s personal tribute to another influence, Thelonius Monk, is displayed in the tricksy bebop cover/tribute ‘I Mean You/For Monk’, while ‘Mandela’ celebrates Ibrahim’s Cape jazz roots – with its catchy kwela-style flute melody, and shuffling rhythms. It’s an epic excursion, with a stop on the way to suit all tastes. Neil Mckim