Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Album Review: Abdullah Ibrahim - Solotude

Abdullah Ibrahim
**** out of *****

Artists have their favorite venues to play. David Byrne has lauded CBGB's sound, The Allman Brothers helped play the Beacon Theaters rent for decades and even small bands like Dogleg have a favorite (the Majestic Theater in Detroit). It would stand to reason that one of the great jazz pianists would have a favorite venue as well and Abdullah Ibrahim does, Hirzinger Hall, in Riedering, South East Germany.

Each year the famed South African pianist plays a special show at the venue on his birthday. Due to the pandemic that was not possible, so instead he brought a minimal recording team into the hall and he managed to record this special solo performance. Ibrahim delivers this live album in front of empty seat as he plays beautifully throughout for no one and everyone. 

The intimate affair flows from the first notes and is meant to be taken as a whole with no pauses as the pianist just goes from one tune to the next, crafting a sense of ease and languid flowing. The opening "Mindiff" feels searching, before the contemplative "Trieste My Love" while "Nisa" is just cool as all hell. The album rolls out and there is little song division, but even then, a few stand out. 

"Blue Bolero" is meditative and pops up a few times in the set, "In-Tempo" pulls off a neat trick of feeling like chaotic free jazz while still saying true to the relaxed vibe. The ominously funky "District 6" is a gas while the sparse and gorgeous "Sotho Blue" just may be the albums high point.  

The end of the album slows it down a bit much with "Once Upon A Midnight" which has a late night 50's vibe and "The Wedding" which feels a bit drowsy but at this point things are already well in hand. The amazing acoustics inspire Ibrahim to return every year to Hirzinger Hall, now fans don't have to wait that long and can check out Solotude anytime. 
Support the artist, buy the album, stream it on bandcamp or below and peep some video:

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