Cape Town Revisited

COMPOSERS: Abdullah Ibrahim
LABELS: Enja
ALBUM TITLE: Abdullah Ibrahim Trio
PERFORMER: Abdullah Ibrahim (p), Marcus McLaurine (b), George Gray (d); plus Feya Faku (t)
CATALOGUE NO: TIP-888 836-2 (distr. New Note)

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After the disappointing 1999 album African Suite, where Ibrahim’s resonant piano voicings were buried in string arrangements, here’s the real deal. Cape Town Revisited is a live recording, made in his native city during a 1997 tour.

The set list includes some of Ibrahim’s best loved tunes – ‘Water From an Ancient Well’, ‘The Mountain’, ‘The Wedding’ – and is a treat from start to finish. String orchestras aside, Ibrahim excels in any format. Solo performances are transcendentally absorbing, while his group arrangements can be deliciously swinging affairs.

The trio delivers the best of both here: bittersweet, Romantic meditations which burst from a brown study into a multi-coloured celebration of African rhythm; or Monk-like meanderings which gradually fall into lockstep with the rhythm section and become something Ellingtonian.

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The guest appearances of trumpeter Feya Faku on three tracks are perfectly judged, his high harmon-muted sound adding brilliant light. Nearly 40 years on from his recording debut (fixed up by Duke Ellington), Ibrahim’s infusion of jazz and soulful South African themes has evolved into a unique music that is profound yet instantly accessible. Garry Booth