Dollar Brand - Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) Plays Sphere Jazz



This is the first long playing record made by that distinguished and soulful pianist. Dollar Brand, and his two sidemen.

Dollar Brand, for many years the unpredictable mystery man of modern jazz, has finally made it in the jazz world. Since February 1962, Dollar Brand's trio has been wooing the European jazz fans with their music, just as they have done in every corner of South Africa — playing in crowded night clubs and concert halls.

He has played a great variety of musical shows, to name a few; "African Jazz" (a musical circus), "Cape Coon Carnival", "Cape Town Malay Coons" and he's led everything from a duo, trio, quartet, up to a 15 piece band.

Wherever he's played he's taken his audience into space with his beautiful piano style which sounds like that of his idol, Thelonius "Sphere" Monk. He has received rave reviews in most of the country's newspapers for his music in all jazz festivals and concert appearances; offers to write for films, stage shows, and notices in magazines which customarily ignore this native art, called jazz.

Dollar Brand was born in Johannesburg 27 years ago. At the age of 3 years, Dollar's parents decided to make their home in Cape Town's notorius District Six. At the age of six, Dollar returned to Johannesburg — where his ear caught up with a Duke Ellington recording of "Take The 'A' Train". He was so taken up by Duke's piano and music that, he literally tore the roof down with his hysterical applause and never stopped thinking of his first meeting with jazz. During school intervals, when the other kids were playing football or something, he would be listening to Duke Ellington records at the nearest record dealer's shop. Most of his pocket money was spent on 78 rpm recordings by Duke Ellington's orchestra.

He would spend most of his time at the piano which his grandmother owned and sometimes he'd wake up the whole house in the middle of the night with his own version of, "A Train". He would spend days and nights studying the piano and music. Dollar Brand was then forced to leave the jazz city of Johannesburg for Cape Town where he matriculated; and later became a school-teacher. Dollar quit his teaching job to study music at the Cape Town University, where he quit before graduating, because he felt the lecturers weren't interested in the people he would really have liked to be lectured on; Duke, Bird, Monk, etc... He would spend days and nights at his piano, listening to the latest Charlie "Bird" Parker, Thelonius Monk, Ellington and Charles Mingus discs. Then in the early 50's Dollar felt he was now ready to face the local night club jazz scene (Cape Town) — but the young jazz pianist found himself thrown out of night club gigs by the owners who just told him,"Sorry lad, nobody seems to dig your kind of jazz" ... "I realised", Dollar once emphasised, "That one thing that hurt me most was that the night club owners themselves knew and still know nothing about jazz". But, Dollar Brand never got discouraged, he never felt like the volcano had erupted on him. He kept on playing his music and with various groups which accommodated him on the jam session stands.

Writers who used to write about his mine boots and bogards, jazz fans would laugh at him for this, but the important thing was the music he was writing and playing in these big boots and bogards —that issue was just plain GREAT!

Then, the bell of that sweet smell of success tolled for Dollar Brand. His fellow musicians hated him because they wouldn't get night club and concert gigs when he was around town. Showbiz promoters wanted nothing on their bill but Dollar Brand's trio.

In 1955, Dollar added to his trio, that leading altoist Johannesburg's Kippie Moeketsie. This quartet, to many jazz experts, sounded like the Charlie "Bird" Parker quartet featuring Thelonius Monk. Later on Dollar added Hugh Masekela (trumpet) and Jonas Gwangwa (trombone). Both lads are in America studying music, at present. This quintet played in all the leading cities in South Africa and wherever they played they packed the halls.

In January 1960, Dollar Brand made history by making a long playing jazz record with his quintet, which was all African.

Dollar has travelled thousands of miles between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban and many other top cities, playing jazz to the music deaf and opening their ears. He has composed and arranged more jazz tunes than any of our jazz writers. Dollar's two great works "JAZZ INDIGO" (dedicated to Duke Ellington) and "JAZZ-HISTORY MOODS" (Dedicated to Jelly Roll, Fats Waller, Monk, Bird, Diz & Mingus) were performed before record breaking jazzophiles at the Johannesburg Uncle Tom's Hall and the City Hall, and also in Cape Town.

When Dollar plays the piano, he goes right back to the roots of jazz, like Jelly Roll and Fats Waller and the Bessie Smith's and Ma Rainey's.

Jazz to Dollar, is his experiences and he plays it that way. Music is a universal language of emotions: Like Charlie Mingus once said; "It is a test of life. If you walk into a room you have a reaction to the people. You like some, dislike others. Everyone reacts to music in a different way and everyone should be able to make it on his own and play and write the music the way he feels it. If he is going to be really great, he must learn to be himself. He is always with others; but most alone". This is exactly the kind of man Dollar is. This is why he has been the most successful, original and greatest of our jazzmen — home and abroad.

Notes by: Mike M. Phahlane

1979 Gallo (Africa) 5-3-79
Marketed and distributed by Gallo
Also available on Cassette SRKC 786141


recorded 1960-02
issued 1979
The Sun As-Shams
made in South Africa
SRK 786141
matrix ABC 18363
matrix ABC 18364
33 rpm
cover printed by Interpak
source: flatinternational Archive



1.1Boulevard East

(Dollar Brand)

1.2Khumbula Jane

(Mackay Davashe)

1.3King Kong

(Todd Matshikiza)

2.4Blues for B

(Dollar Brand)


(Thelonius Monk)

2.6Just You, Just Me


2.7Eclipse at Dawn

(Dollar Brand)






This was Abdullah Ibrahim's first 'solo' album (though with Johnny Gertze and Makaya Ntshoko) and was recorded on February 4th, 1960, two weeks after the classic Jazz Epistle sessions. Strangely, the orginal album was only issued two years after the recording, by Gallo on their Continental label in 1962. This reissue was pressed with a different cover on Rashid Vally's The Sun As-Shams label in 1979.