Abdullah Ibrahim

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South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim's effervescent sound is immediately recognizable. It is steeped in the folk traditions of his homeland, from township folk and A.M.E. gospel to Indian raga, yet is wed to the elegant compositional flair of Duke Ellington, canny notions of harmony and rhythm learned from Thelonious Monk, and classical technical proficiency. Beginning his career with Cape Town's the Jazz Epistles in 1960, Ibrahim has continually explored new ground while affirming jazz tradition in his imaginative playing and writing. After moving to Europe in 1962, he made his mark with 1963's Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio. Two years later, while living in New York City as an exile, his debut solo piano set Reflections established his reputation globally. His star and influence continued to rise during the '70s thanks to a slew of recordings, including 1973's African Space Program and

1979's African Marketplace. Ibrahim returned to his homeland permanently in 1990 at Nelson Mandela's personal invitation, and performed at the leader's inauguration in 1994. In the 21st century,

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