African Space Program

Dollar Brand

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African Space Program Review

by Brian Olewnick

Still known as Dollar Brand at the time of this recording, Abdullah Ibrahim had his first encounter with a large ensemble on African Space Program, and the results are quite successful. Despite a muddy sound quality, this is music built on infectious themes and played with verve by a fine cast of instrumentalists. The first part of "Tintiyana," entirely written, is redolent of Ellington and Mingus, all churning low tones and percussion. When the second portion begins, the mood turns celebratory with a striding, gospel-imbued theme supporting heroic solos from all involved. Several of the musicians on hand were generally involved with the avant-garde end of the jazz spectrum at the time, and their playing is full of bite and a risk-taking nature that greatly enlivens the proceedings. The companion piece, "Jabulani-Easter Joy," is similarly structured, though here the theme bears a striking, if accidental, resemblance to the central melody of "Jesus Christ, Superstar" (!). The soloing is perhaps even more rambunctious than on "Tintiyana," and brings the album to a quite rousing conclusion. Among all the fine work, special mention should be made of the rhythm team of Cecil McBee and Roy Brooks who, along with the leader's relentless and driving accompaniment, pace the ensemble beautifully and add their own superb solo statements.

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