The Chan Centre Presents Tribute to Legendary South African Ensemble The Jazz Epistles

The Chan Centre Presents Tribute to Legendary South African Ensemble The Jazz Epistles

The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia
(UBC) presents The Jazz Epistles: Abdullah Ibrahim with guest Terence Blanchard in a rare tribute concert, February 18 at 7pm in the Chan Shun Concert Hall. Half a century after the release of their landmark album, Jazz Epistle Verse 1, iconic keyboardist and Jazz Epistle alumnus Abdullah Ibrahim revisits the legendary repertoire of his historic South African ensemble. Four-time GRAMMY-winning New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard joins Ibrahim and band Ekaya as guest performer of these jazz masterworks produced during the apartheid struggle.

"Abdullah Ibrahim is one of the world's great jazz pioneers and an important figure of hope and perseverance in the face of oppression," says Joyce Hinton, Co-Managing Director of the Chan Centre. "While apartheid divided South Africa, a brave group of black artists, The Jazz Epistles, were creating brilliant jazz at a time when it was forbidden. We proudly celebrate their talent and achievements as we welcome Ibrahim alongside a fellow influential force in jazz, Terence Blanchard, to our stage for the first time."

The Jazz Epistles were South Africa's first black jazz band to record an album and break onto the world stage. Formed in the early 1950's and inspired by Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the group's all-star members included pianist Dollar Brand, later known as Abdullah Ibrahim, alto-saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi, trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, bassist Johnny Gertze, and Early Mabuza on drums. These young artists came together for illustrious late-night jam sessions at the Odin Theatre near Johannesburg, where they built their fame and notoriety. Blending the sound of township dancehalls with American jazz, the music of The Jazz Epistles was both innovative and brave.

In 1959, The Jazz Epistles recorded their first album. Though only 500 copies were initially distributed, it was later recognized as a groundbreaking recording. Following the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa, the country's racist apartheid government forced The Jazz Epistles into exile and the sextet fled separately to Europe and North America. Two members - Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela - became music giants in their own right.

After being discovered by the late Duke Ellington, Ibrahim was signed to Frank Sinatra's record label and quickly achieved international recognition. Ibrahim went on to release an impressive discography, with many works addressing a defiance to apartheid and oppression, including the anthem "Mannenberg". Ibrahim settled in the US, playing with big jazz names such as Max Roach, Carlos Ward, Randy Weston, and many others. Following a more than 50-year hiatus, in June 2016 several members of The Jazz Epistles reunited in two concerts in Johannesburg, their first gig together on African soil in almost six decades.

Top-tier New Orleans trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, who will appear at the Chan Centre alongside Ibrahim, is considered one of the most prolific jazz musicians of our time. Much like Ibrahim, Blanchard's career is steeped in acclaim and spans more than four decades, plus 30 albums.

In 1982, Blanchard joined the group behind The Jazz Epistles' inspiration, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, as a soloist and musical director. Shortly thereafter, Blanchard went on to create an eponymous solo album and has since enjoyed a varied and versatile career, which includes fronting his own quintet, the E-Collective. Blanchard is also a revered film score performer and composer, playing on the soundtracks of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and Mo' Better Blues and composing the score for Lee's Jungle Fever.

For this historic homage to The Jazz Epistles, Ibrahim and Blanchard will be backed by Ibrahim's stellar band Ekaya featuring: Noah Jackson (cello and bass); Will Terrill (drums); Cleave Guyton Jr. (alto saxophone, flute, clarinet, and piccolo); Lance Bryant (tenor saxophone); Andrae Murchison (trombone and trumpet); and Marshall McDonald (baritone saxophone).

Since 1997, the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in UBC's Arts & Culture District has earned an international reputation for its striking design, stellar acoustics, and exceptional programming. Artists, critics, and patrons alike are unanimous in their praise of the facility, winning it a place among North America's premier performing arts venues. The Chan Centre boasts three unique venues: the superb Chan Shun Concert Hall, the dramatic Telus Studio Theatre, and the intimate Royal Bank Cinema.

From classical, jazz, theatre, and opera to world music, the Chan Centre is a vital part of UBC campus life where artistic and academic disciplines merge to inspire new perspectives on life and culture. Past performers and guest speakers include: Wynton Marsalis, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Renée Fleming, Dan Savage, Yo-Yo Ma, Buena Vista Social Club, Sigur Rós, Mavis Staples, Anoushka Shankar, Trombone Shorty, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. This season the Chan Centre is celebrating two decades of world class performance. Visit their 20th anniversary archives at for memorable stories and never-before-seen photos from the past twenty years.

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