Abdullah Ibrahim, The Very Best of Abdullah Ibrahim (Music Club): The music of Cape Town-born pianist Ibrahim is like Thelonious Monk gone back to the motherland — elegant, small-combo jazz, bedecked with the kind of strutting melodies you can hear on the label's superb Township Jazz 'N' Jive collection. Perhaps this compilation, which starts with Ibrahim's second exile in 1979, should have been subtitled The Ambassador of Township Jazz. "Mandela"(1986) and "Chisa"(1989) showcase super-hummable tunes that are no doubt deeply embedded in the South African musical consciousness. The gut-wrenching "Zimbabwe" from 1983 lets forth the sadness of roots severed by Apartheid. In contrast, the five tracks from the post-Apartheid years are noticeably undernourished, a development I'd hate to blame on loss of purpose. If I'm misunderstanding this because I'm unfamiliar with this era of Ibrahim's forty year-plus career, it's unfortunate that the compilers of this collection weren't more forthcoming with the relevant information. — Kevin John

copyright (c) 2001 michael goldberg | design by elephantcloud