Jazz Attuned to the Pace of a Calm, Steady Heartbeat


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The South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim harbors no fondness for disruption. A calm, steady heartbeat nourishes his music, fulfilling a meditative urge. When he works in a solo setting — as on “Senzo,” a gorgeously recorded album released last year on Sunnyside — the result is usually a flowing experience, proceeding without pause from beginning to end.

Mr. Ibrahim did his part to transport that aesthetic to Jazz Standard on Tuesday, in his first of three evenings of solo recitals. (From Friday through Sunday he’ll appear there with a version of Ekaya, his more broadly dynamic seven-piece band.)

The first set covered much the same ground as “Senzo,” but stretched longer: nearly an hour and a half, past the point of comfort for such a hushed and interior performance. The handsome sobriety of Mr. Ibrahim’s playing gave in to spells of stifling dullness.

The format wasn’t the problem; Cecil Taylor and Keith Jarrett have both earned renown for transfixing their audiences with outpourings of pianism. But Mr. Ibrahim is a far too modest stylist for that kind of bedazzlement, with instincts that favor rumination over rapture. Portions of his set evoked the earnestly melodic side of Mr. Jarrett, but that was because of the echoes of gospel uplift and hymnal serenity.

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