There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Tonight, as part of the global celebration of the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington’s birth, South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra illustrate both the African and the European influences on Ellington’s suites with the U.S. premiere of Ibrahim’s own African Suite. The performance headlines a jam-packed Jazz Arts ’99 evening called “Ode to Ellington,” which also includes a film presentation, music from the wonderful Levine School of Music Jazz Ensemble under the baton of Jeffrey Chappel, and a yet another promising adventure—a newly choreographed dance program created by Fabian Barnes and the Dance Institute of Washington. Ibrahim’s introduction to the United States came via Ellington in 1965, when the Duke invited the young pianist to play at the Newport Jazz Festival. Just as Ellington’s compositions captured the soul and rhythms of African-Americans, Ibrahim’s spirited music evokes both the suffering and the hopes of South Africans. His economical piano playing is also something like Ellington’s; he is concerned more with capturing a song’s lyrical qualities than with instrumental dexterity. But Ibrahim isn’t a South African facsimile of Ellington: Through his wonderful collaborations with avant-garde artists like Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and Gato Barbieri, his music has always had an edge that’s completely his own. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 24, at Carter Barron Amphitheater, 4850 Colorado Ave. NW. Free. (202) 723-7500. (John Murph)