The great Abdullah Ibrahim walked unannounced onto the stage, made himself comfortable at the piano and plunged straight into a totally engrossing 25 minute, semi-improvised piece, which touched on several familiar phrases and motifs from his huge canon. He was then joined by two excellent musicians who between them played double bass & cello and a selection of wind instruments, for a series of more structured tunes, all conducted by Mr Ibrahim's nods, yelps and smiles. The music, ostensibly jazz though veering on occasion towards classical, was often contemplative, sometimes playful and always utterly spellbinding. When the trio took their final bows at the end of the show, I'm sure I wasn't alone at being astonished to find that 90 minutes had passed in the blink of an eye. My seat was literally front and centre. I was so close, that the music I heard was acoustic and came straight from the instruments, not through the theatre's sound system. It's unlikely that Mr Ibrahim will pass this way again and it was a distinct privilege to be in the audience for what was an unforgettable evening.
I bought my first Abdullah Ibrahim albums in the mid-1980's and probably have about a dozen now, though these few barely scratch the surface of this giant of music's vast catalogue. Here are a couple of my early favourites.