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The Jazz Epistles: A Holy Moment Revisited by Abdullah Ibrahim on The Checkout

Sachyn Mital
Abdullah Ibrahim at The Town Hall on South African Freedom Day 2017

Last year, The Checkout and Jazz Night In America attempted to make a little jazz history. We asked the legendary pianist Abdullah Ibrahim to reimagine, rearrange, and reinterpret music from his early 20s. Back then, he was a member of a short-lived but influential group called The Jazz Epistles, whose other members included trumpeter Hugh Masekela, trombonist Jonas Gwangwa,  and saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi.

The band released one album, Jazz Epistle Verse 1. In South Africa, the backstory of this 1959 recording is fairly well-known, but it still remains a mystery to most American jazz fans. Below, you can read all about fascinating history behind the album, which occurred at such a pivotal and tumultuous time in South Africa's history. Because of the rise of apartheid, this masterpiece recording almost didn't happen in the first place. The story and music of The Jazz Epistles come alive once again at BAM this Wednesday and Thursday. Watch the noted animated short that came from this original Jazz Night episode and Checkout podcast, illustrated by Tessa Chong and Lee Arkapaw. We are also proud to announce that Jazz Night in America was just nominated for a Peabody Award. Revisit the historic concert we recorded at the Town Hall on April 27, 2017 on South Africa Freedom Day.


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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.