1973: This Is Dollar Brand 
This Is Dollar Brand
Rated as: Album / Archival
Album Status: for Fans
Specific Genre: Cape Jazz, Piano Jazz
Main Genre: Jazz
Undertones: Third Stream
Label: Black Lion
Side A: 1. Little Niles 2. Resolution 3. Which Way? 4. On the Banks of Allen Waters
Side B: 5. Knight’s Night 6. Pye R Squared [Medley 7–9:] 7. Mood Indigo 8. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore 9. Take the „A“ Train
A good but in no way essential addition to Brand’s early work
Originally recorded in 1965 (but not released until 1973), this is early Brand. It doesn’t sound unfamiliar, but Brand displays neither his sprawling african piano swirl, nor does he go into his Ellington-musings too often (though he does, of course: the last three tracks here are an Ellington-medley).
No, in this London solo-session (Pye Studios), he explores pieces which are slow and abstract, with some of his signature clusters and fast little dissonant attacks thrown in, but he never sets into the relentless groove familiar from his works from the later 1960s. His tone is harsh and direct here, the abstract pieces sound pleasingly pensive and alienated, and the Ellington-pieces sound, well, also pleasingly pensive. Abstract Brand plays some abstract Ellington, both survive. The songs are not very constructed but do follow Brand’s idiosyncratic logic of structure which is always borderline improv.
Of most interest is the display of an additional side of Brand in 1965 – his published works, like the trio-session Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio, retained more of a swing feel, while the live set Anatomy of a South African Village was already introducing his mobile, sprawling „cape jazz“. This, on the other hand, is Brand displaying his stark, slightly avant-garde leanings. Without the soft touch, though. If there ever was a great pianist who didn’t care about the „soft touch“, that is Dollar Brand.
This is a good but in no way essential addition to Brand’s early work, as everything that is „signature Brand“ is only faintly audible here, as if he was deliberately holding back. Brand wasn’t a refined player at that time, so the slow but brittle sound might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m not surprised this didn’t get released until when he was already internationally famous, because it has this demo-feel all over it, as if Brand was just trying out some new motives on some afternoon in the studio. Yet it lets you see Brand’s less approachable, voice-searching leanings at the time, which makes for a great complementary addition.
Edition trivia: The several mid-1960s sessions Brand played (mostly in Europe) have a messy publication history. The tracks from this 1965-session have surfaced 1973 on several LPs and CDs eversince, usually called This Is Dollar Brand or Reflections. They are the same and the track listing is usually congruent, but the LPs and CDs called Reflections usually feature four additional tracks. Several online sources claim that these sessions were issued under either title in 1965, but that is not true. While this track list here contains the session’s bulk of interest, the entire session is available on Reflections (Black Lion BLCD760127).