The Lost Recordings Of Hasaan Ibn Ali Reveal A Legend Just Getting Started Nearly half of the Philadelphia-based pianist's recorded work had gone unheard for decades, until now.
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The Lost Recordings Of Hasaan Ibn Ali Reveal A Legend Just Getting Started

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The Lost Recordings Of Hasaan Ibn Ali Reveal A Legend Just Getting Started

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Music Reviews

The Lost Recordings Of Hasaan Ibn Ali Reveal A Legend Just Getting Started

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For decades, most of what jazz scholars have known about the late Philadelphia pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali came from a single 1965 album.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MAX ROACH TRIO FEATURING THE LEGENDARY HASAAN'S "THREE-FOUR VS. SIX-EIGHT FOUR-FOUR WAYS")

KELLY: But that changes now with the release of a recently discovered follow-up that was believed to have been lost in a fire. Reviewer Tom Moon says the album, called "Metaphysics," expands the story of a jazz enigma.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TOM MOON, BYLINE: When Hasaan Ibn Ali made his debut on Atlantic Records, he was 33 years old and living with his parents. He rarely performed in public. But within the community of musicians on the East Coast, there was grapevine talk about the socially awkward pianist from Philly who could create whiplash like Thelonious Monk one minute and sprint up and down the keyboard like Art Tatum the next.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: In Philadelphia, Ali was known for showing up at jam session, sitting down on the piano bench next to whoever was playing and gradually taking over. Young musicians respected him and feared him, too. Saxophone legend Archie Shepp, who learned to play at those sessions, recalls that younger musicians would flee the bandstand to listen to Ali's intense questioning music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: After Ali's debut got positive reviews, Atlantic commissioned his second album. The pianist wrote new material for a quartet that included inventive tenor saxophonist Odean Pope, who was making his recording debut. The two had played together for years, and you can hear that connection on this track, which is called "Epitome."

(SOUNDBITE OF HASAAN IBN ALI'S "EPITOME")

MOON: Just weeks after the sessions, Ali was arrested on drug charges. That prompted label executives to shelve the project. Ali eventually stopped playing in public and died in 1981. His master tapes were lost in a vault fire. It took jazz historians until 2017 to find a backup copy of this never-released second album.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: "Metaphysics" roughly doubles Hasaan Ibn Ali's known recorded output. It's brilliant, sometimes sloppy, loaded with musical provocations in the form of diabolical solo leaps and compositional ideas he might have developed further on future projects.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: Ali was hailed as legendary on his first record, but as this discovery shows, he was just getting started.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KELLY: The newly discovered album from Hasaan Ibn Ali is called "Metaphysics." Reviewer Tom Moon writes the EchoLocator newsletter on Substack.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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