Abdullah Ibrahim – Bombella

Abdullah Ibrahim mixed into a snap of his web site’s splash screen. abdullahibrahim.com

An amazing thing happened the other day. I caught wind that my favorite musician, and friend, Abdullah Ibrahim, had released a new recording, Bombella. But, there was a rub: it wasn’t available anywhere nearby as one of those old fashioned compact discs! One could download mp3s from Amazon or eMusic. I tracked the record to the label, Intuition (Germany.) Yet, it wasn’t out at HMV-UK, or FNAC-Paris.

The desire for instant gratification “at the highest fidelity” being what it is, I went back to check out the link that popped first on google, to an outfit called soulseduction.com. There indeed was the record in downloadable form, in mp3, and, could it be? wave files. Pure digital. Was soulseduction a scam? A pirate haven?

As it turned out, no, soulseduction is a download-only distributor in Switzerland that had licensed Intuition’s catalog and new releases. Bingo! Quick international transaction and 800mb of music was on its way through the wonder of the internet. This isn’t the wave of the future—only an odd type of muso will take the trouble of downloading and burning full digital audio. Still, there the new recording was playing through the monitors after 45 minutes. $19.00.

Let me offer the briefest of reviews: a spectacular record.

Consider its context: Dr. Ibrahim is the most sophisticated and creative musician the continent of Africa has produced. Africa’s music tradition goes back about 50,000 years. Ibrahim has made tens of records during his visionary journey to extend that tradition. Almost every recording is very very good. Bombella exceeds the implied high standard. My guess is that in a month or so I will feel this record is as good as anything he has released.

Bombella page @Intuition

composer: Abdullah Ibrahim
interpreter: Abdullah Ibrahim
conductor: Steve Gray
orchestra/ensemble: WDR Big Band Köln

Abdullah Ibrahim: piano / Paul Shigihara: guitar / John Goldsby: bass / Hans Dekker: drums / Andy Haderer: trumpet / Wim Both: trumpet / Rob Bruynen: trumpet / John Marshall: trumpet / Klaus Osterloh: trumpet / Ludwig Nuss: trombone / Dave Horler: trombone / Bernt Laukamp: trombone / Mattis Cederberg: bass trombone / Heiner Wiberny: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet / Karolina Strassmayer: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet / Olivier Peters: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet / Paul Heller: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet / Jens Neufang: baritone saxophone, flute, clarinet / Steve Gray: conductor, arranger

Byrds – 8 Miles High

I switched schools in the fall of 1969 and started my 10th grade year at an all man-boys’ (!) private school on the far east side of Cleveland. Previously, under the influence of my older cousin with whom I vacationed during the summers of ’68 and ’69, I began to support my naive responses to the incredible music available during the first and only wave of underground radio.

I didn’t have any way to really frame my attractions. After all, in 1967, the music I enjoyed that year was: The Monkees! Still, during 9th grade, and before any ganja haze had rolled in, the little clicque I was a party to was heavy into The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, and Judy Collins, and a few others. Also, during the spring of 9th grade, Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt spent a day at my junior high. Then our class got comped to a show with Taj, Bonnie, and Pacific Gas & Electric, at the local YMCA.

My twin brother was altogether worldly in his more developed tastes. His tastes counted for a lot too: if he liked something, I rejected it! Among the things I rejected were The Moody Blues, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and, Led Zeppelin. When I arrived at private school, my musical touchstones were few. If I remember these correctly, my favored music was the first Blood, Sweat & Tears record, The Blues Project, Al Kooper’s Super Session, Judy Collins, The Beatles, and, oddly enough, Flatt & Scruggs.

When I fell in with the amazing Dynamo Man, Jamie, the fall of 10th grade, he pulled out Moby Grape’s debut LP, and it was the nexus for our first–of many many–listening sessions. Crucially, Jamie, (the son of one of the first chain record store impresarios,) pulled next out of the biggest record collection I had ever seen, a Byrds LP, The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
the band that first opened my ears of perception.

I was hooked.

I saw The Byrds a couple of times, once in 1970 and once toward the end of their classic quartet featuring Clarence White. The ’70 concert was a fire breathing affair. I believe it was the earlier concert at Oberlin, that Jamie, Tony, Steve, Mark, and me waited after the concert in a sleet storm to give the band their due. We stood by the tour bus to wait, and sure enough the Byrds eventually came out of the rear doorway of the gym. It would be accurate to say that McGuinn, Parsons, Battin, were gruff.

But not Clarence White, who received our accolades graciously and shook each of our hands.

Rocky Roots

I’ve known my friend Kate for forty-two years. She comes back to town every now and then to visit her parents and we get together for brief moment. As it has happened, her husband, Rocky Maffit, is a fine professional musician with a long pedigree and very diverse musical interests.

She played me a track from his new album, a record close to the end of its journey to completion.

It was killer! The sound was gospelish with more than a nod toward the atmospherics of Daniel Lanois and the syncretic Peter Gabriel, and rootsy Ry Cooder. What also jumped out was the great care and intricacy of the assembled track, especially the subtle rhythms woven throughout. Now I just have to be patient!

One other thing: Rocky might be termed a globetrotting but regional kind of artist. I’ve tagged his link DIY Creative. This is the tag I use for musicians who have figured out how to make a go of it without yielding to the exploitative old school industry. See my page here: Business Advice for Musicians. The page sums up much of what I’ve learned after 20+ years in the business.