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Monday, April 16, 2018

In Context: The Jazz Epistles

Superstar pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, a revered figure in jazz for over six decades, comes to BAM for two nights only to commemorate the short-lived, near-mythical South African group the Jazz Epistles. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #JazzEpistles.

Program Notes

Coming soon!


Abdullah Ibrahim: An Illustrated Epistle for a Jazz Apostle (BAM blog)
In this series of illustrations, artist Nathan Gelgud pays homage to the Jazz Epistles pioneering bebop spirit.
Apartheid Swing: The Jazz Epistles’ Short-Lived Success (BAM blog)
Learn more about the history of the legendary group in the context of apartheid–and why the racist government elected to shut it down.

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Jazz Epistles (The Village Voice)
"The story of the Epistles is, among other things, a testament to the sheer energy of jazz in the late 1950s, the way it sparked new thinking in the United States and South Africa alike."

Best of The Beat on Afropop: The Jazz Epistles--Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela (Afropop)
Peruse Afropop's comprehensive overview of the Jazz Epistles through text, video, and song.

Watch & Listen

The Jazz Epistles (Spotify)
Enjoy a curated selection of the group's most melodic moments.

Abdullah Ibrahim: How Improvisation Saved My Life (NPR)
"More than perhaps any other improvising artist, [Ibrahim] knows how to turn the solitary act of introspection into a communal experience that's both transporting and immersive."

Abdullah Ibrahim A Brother With Perfect Timing (The New York Times)
Archival footage of Ibrahim from a 1987, apartheid-era documentary.

Now your turn...

How did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #JazzEpistles.


  1. We were taken on a magic carpet ride.Bro'Ibrahim is a treasure.He's not to be missed.The sound system was great. The musicians delivered from their hearts.I'm blessed..

  2. well, nice sounds, some lovely moments, nothing bad, but no edge. a tribute, well deserved, to AI, but not particularly inspired.

    1. The musicans are excellent players, but amplication muddied and homogenized their sound to the detriment of their individual voices. The mania for amplication, even in halls with very good acoustics and tiny jazz clubs, is hurting jazz.

  3. My first time hearing Abdullah Ibrahim live and I Loved the music - almost drifted away at times. Would like to know names of the other musicians who were all good!

  4. Beautiful concert. Fabulous players. A great and lovely evening. Thanks for bringing them!

  5. One of the finest jazz concerts I have ever heard. The seamless repertoire was so beautifully constructed and executed with exquisite professionalism and skill. The music was transcending and moving. Each member of the group excelled while humbly working as fine tuned ensemble. The musicianship, comradery and respect shown for each other was palpable.

  6. Moments of exquisitely beautiful music; some outstanding playing and musicianship. The sound in the hall was crystal clear and as good as anything I have ever heard. Coltrane and Hendrix strong; the passages with AI, the cello and piccolo or flute were particularly lovely.

  7. The musicians were excellent, but amplification homogenized their sound and damaged their individual voices. The mania for amplification in every setting, even halls with excellent acoustics and tiny jazz clubs, is hurting jazz.

  8. Wonderful concert. This ensemble is incredibly talented and professional, and it was such a treat to watch them work together making some truly beautiful music. The sound in the hall is excellent - from the back of the orchestra section every instrument could be heard clearly and appreciated. A great night!

  9. Now and then Ibrahim quoted himself, playing hints of prior masterpieces, including one his great ones from the Dollar Brand days. I know it saddened him that his comrade, Hugh Masekela, wasn't able to share the stage -- his passing was a deep loss. I swear I heard him quote Masekela's goldminer's lament.

    After his African Symphony (2002) and series of concerts performing with symphonic orchestras, Ibrahim has returned to his township jazz roots with a terrific band -- mostly from Brooklyn. The bandmaster, on flute, piccolo (!) and alto sax, lives a couple of blocks from BAM, and guest stars Freddie Hendrixs and Ravi Coltrane are also in the boro. So what was so joyous was a blend of the Grand Master's mesmerizing 20th C township jazz with the very 21st C Brooklyn retro bebop and sometimes Miles Davis-inspired blues. From start to finish, a perfect jazz set.
    Thank you, BAM!

  10. A great night of jazz. Moving music.

  11. My wife and I very much enjoyed this concert. My wife, who isn't a big jazz fan, said this was her favorite jazz concert ever. I think this performance hit the sweet spot in jazz for my wife and me. We felt a consistent connection to what was being played. Mr. Ibrahim, Ekaya, and Ravi Coltrane were all excellent. It was a lovely experience.

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