52 Jazz Tracks for 2021 (23. ‘Soweto’ – Abdullah Ibrahim and Carlos Ward, Live at Sweet Basil, vol 1, 1983)

The 23rd of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE) is a duo that brought out the best in two great players.

Ibrahim Ward album sleeve

Abdullah Ibrahim’s late style sometimes seems to bear few traces of the man in his pomp, though recent recordings are still lovely, in a meditative sort of way. But I return often to this earlier duo – focussed, intense and deeply emotional at every moment.

The undersung Carlos Ward was as brilliant on flute as he is on alto and inhabited Ibrahim’s themes as if they were his own. He’s not well represented on record, and even this one almost got away. It appeared briefly on Ibrahim’s own, short-lived label but hasn’t been reissued (nor, sadly, did we ever get Vol 2).

The below Youtube posting has the whole of side 2. Like the pianist’s solo sets, the numbers run onto one another in a continuous stream. All the tunes are Ibrahim favourites, beginning here with Anthem for a New Nation. There follows a mini solo recital, five themes in seven minutes, with Ward on the sidelines.

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Then – the big finish – the two come together for the storming Soweto, a real anthem, Ward switching back to alto. The pianist is now the accompanist, and what an accompanist, pounding out the rhythm, while Ward takes flight. He may have matched this solo on other dates, but surely never bettered it. It’s a genuinely cathartic moment, and ends the record and, one may guess, the set in a way that is unusually satisfying.

LINKS: More on this recording on Jon’s Bristol Jazz Log
Read Jon’s introduction to the ’52 tracks’ series
Week 22: Amaxesha Osizi (Times Of Sorrow) – Louis Moholo Octet
Spotify playlist for the series

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