Abdullah Ibrahim and the Mahotella Queens among highlights of Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2014
- Stewart Smith
- 14 July 2014
This article is from 2014
The festival also features performances from Freshlyground, the Bad Plus and Zoe Rahman
Jazz is a living artform, but Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival's programming can be a little too reliant on tribute shows and revivalists. There are always some gems, however, and this year's Mandela Day Concert is a must-see, featuring the great South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand; mbaqanga (South African dance music) legends the Mahotella Queens; and contemporary South African stars Freshlyground (although the less said about the latter's slick MOR pop the better).
As a member of the Jazz Epistles alongside Kippie Moeketsi and Hugh Masekela, Ibrahim recorded the first album by a black South African band. Moving to Europe in the early 60s, his Dollar Brand Trio combined township folk influences with Ellingtonia, hard bop and the avant-garde. Championed by Sir Duke himself, Ibrahim would go on to work with everyone from Max Roach and Don Cherry, to Archie Shepp and fellow South African Johnny Dyani (check out their amazing Echoes from Africa from 1979). Returning to South Africa in the 1970s, Ibrahim worked with a number of Cape Town musicians, developing the Cape jazz sound which yielded classics like 'Mannenberg', an unofficial national anthem during the apartheid era. He'll be performing solo in Edinburgh, all the better to hear his elegant, soulful and adventurous piano playing.
Of the Festival's contemporary jazz offerings, highlights include New York piano trio the Bad Plus, famed for their frisky tunes and quirky rock covers, and the excellent young British pianist Zoe Rahman, who leads the Commonwealth Jazz Orchestra.
Mandela Day Concert, Fri 18 Jul; Commonwealth Jazz Orchestra, Sat 26 Jul, both at Edinburgh Festival Theatre; The Bad Plus, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 26 Jul.