Abdullah Ibrahim

Duke's Memories [Accord]

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South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim recorded several tributes to his mentor Duke Ellington, and Duke's Memories is certainly one of the finest. Adroitly choosing some under-recognized beauties of Ellingtonia, adding a standard, and mixing in a few originals, Ibrahim delivers a well-balanced and frequently gorgeous program. The opening "Star Crossed Lovers" includes a heart-rending alto solo by one of the best saxophonists few people know (Carlos Ward), and the obscure, jaunty "Way Way Back" is given a delightful, in-the-pocket reading. Tracks five through nine are from a live date, beginning with Ibrahim's moving, stately "The Wedding," which he seems to have recorded on virtually every album he issued during the '80s; it receives one of its better renditions here. The leader, as is his wont, tends to stay in the background, eschewing the star soloist role and preferring to direct the quartet from the keyboard, though he steps out front with some rich playing on "In a Sentimental Mood." A rippling medley of Ellington's "Angelica" and "Purple Gazelle" closes out the album in delightful fashion, rounding out a deeply felt performance. Recommended.

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