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Abdullah Ibrahim once told a seminar at his M7 Academy in Cape Town, "The devil lives on the stage. This is where the ego comes out." On the strength of Solotude, recorded live on his eighty-sixth birthday, Ibrahim has crushed such personal demons and now lets angels guide his performing. One takes his point though, given that even the most spiritual music needs some sense of conceit to create and promote it. But this is an artist with nothing left to prove or justify, having laid down musical markers since emerging on record as Dollar Brand in 1968.
Solotude is neatly titled, with its aching sense of seclusion and repose. The record was made at Hirzinger Hall in east Germany, during the 2020 lockdown, with no audience beyond a technical crew. If anything, this format works better as each piece is left framed by brief silence rather than applause. The only background noise is actually supplied by Ibrahim with his occasional grunts and gasps of concentrated pleasure. Just possibly they could be groans of annoyance at a fluffed note, inaudible to any but himself. But more probably Ibrahim was captivated in the moment at his piano, just as the listeners are left enrapt.