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KooF Ibi: A Trumpet Maestro Creating Sonic Landscapes

by Madonna

Nestled in the corner of Dahlak Paradise in West Philadelphia is a venue that seems to defy reality, adorned with a neon purple sign proclaiming, “If these walls could talk…”.

KooF Ibi, enveloped by his trumpet, manipulated pedals on his looper machine with sock-clad feet. Layer by layer, he wove a tapestry of melodies, transforming the ambiance into a sea of gentle foot tapping and mesmerized head bobbing. The walls, witnesses to the performances of local musical legends, hummed in resonance as Ibi, eyes closed, etched his name into the legacy of the space.

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KooF Ibi, a local trumpet player, defies conventional definitions of a jazz musician. A composer, improviser, and educator, he brings a unique sound to audiences near and far. A master of improvisation, his solos transcend genres, reshaping the boundaries of jazz and blues in Philadelphia.

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Born Koofreh Ibi Umoren in Mercer County, New Jersey, Ibi’s musical journey began by sitting in on his sisters’ piano lessons. His fascination led him to pick up the trumpet, an instrument he played throughout lower school. After a hiatus in high school, a serendipitous return to the band, and the mentorship of his high school music teacher Ron Heller, Ibi’s passion for music was reignited.

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Following in Heller’s footsteps, Ibi moved to Philadelphia to study education and music at the University of the Arts. His commitment to education stems from a desire to inspire the next generation of musicians. Beyond the classroom, Ibi engages with the city, offering private lessons and community programs to unearth hidden musical talents in Philadelphia.

A fixture on the Philadelphia rhythm and blues scene after graduation, Ibi’s innovative and soulful playing garnered attention. His unorthodox methods and fiery solos, influenced by diverse musical styles, set him apart. From Nigerian church music to Thelonious Monk’s avant-garde jazz, Ibi’s influences shape his distinctive sound that fuses soul, avant-garde jazz, and techno-beats.

Ibi’s use of an electric looper and beat pad, inspired by Björk, adds a modern twist to his performances. Embracing new technology, he intertwines futuristic sounds with echoes of the past. For Ibi, no genre is unworthy of appreciation, from Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat to pop, metal, and Dolly Parton. He keeps his ears open, continually learning and incorporating universal sounds into his music.

His favorite performance, collaborating with indie pop band Japanese Breakfast in 2022, showcased the power of diverse genres harmonizing for a common cause. Ibi’s artistic talents extend to film photography and videography, capturing the essence of fellow musicians. Through projects like Random Tea Sessions, he spotlights local Philadelphia artists, showcasing their unique sounds.

Embarking on his first solo tour, Ibi aims to share his unique sound with audiences across the Northeast. Beyond scales and charts, he wants to show that playing music that feels good is accessible. Education remains his priority, whether through remote teaching on tour or inspiring listeners with his playing.

As KooF Ibi traverses the music scene, from small Vermont towns to the vibrant streets of Philadelphia, his passion leaves an indelible mark. His message to aspiring musicians is clear: value the times and people who share music with you, connect with mentors and peers, and venture beyond campus to experience the rich tapestry of sounds in the Philadelphia music scene.

To catch KooF Ibi live, one might find him at Abyssinia every second Thursday or busking at Clark Park. In every performance, he leaves a lasting impact, continuing the tradition of the musical legends who once graced the same stages.

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