Review: Abdullah Ibrahim at Warwick University

Richard Lutz takes his pew to listen to a jazz giant.


Abdullah Ibrahim played with some of the most famous musicians while in New York: Archie Shepp, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman to name just three. He left South Africa in the early sixties, changed his name once or twice but always was on the money.

Now, 84, he quietly took the stage at Warwick Arts  Centre and delivered a piano set that will be hard to forget. The first half was a contemplative number called Do You Hear the Sound? It should have lasted six minutes but sequed into the second (unnamed) piece and filled the full 45 minute first half until his tour manager gingerly came onstage and whispered that the audience needed an interval. He smiled enigmatically, shook his head mystified and exited stage right.

The second half was another meditative composition peppered with hints of movie themes, Cape Town jazz, blues and be bop. Abdullah’s long fingers roamed and stroked the keyboard. He seemed to be in his own world in an  evening of just two numbers.

He returned for an encore, stood near the piano, cupped his ear and sang  a ghostly African gospel chant. A thin voice alone on stage. Then he smiled and left to the sound of a standing ovation.