Album of the year for 2021 – Solotude

The antithesis of bustle, the definition instead of serenity. Serious music that is not overly-portentous containing that ''spiritual'' sense you only get when an artist of Ibrahim's magnitude performs. Stocked full of familiar pieces including …

Published: 31 Dec 2021. Updated: 7 months.

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The antithesis of bustle, the definition instead of serenity. Serious music that is not overly-portentous containing that ''spiritual'' sense you only get when an artist of Ibrahim's magnitude performs. Stocked full of familiar pieces including 'The Wedding', 'Blues for a Hip King' and 'Blue Bolero' no one does stateliness better than the South African jazz icon, now 87. ''My journey, my vision'' it says below the title on the cover. Recorded last year at the Hirzinger Hall in the small Bavarian town of Riedering Solotude is a hymn of concentration and a communing with an ancient sense that is quite touching on many occasions – gentle exclamations, moans and spontaneous rumbles, from Ibrahim sometimes the only companion to the sound of piano.

No jazz musician alive is as Ellingtonian as Ibrahim. It's the sheer touch and the quality of the compositions often notable for their simplicity for instance ‘Blue Bolero' in addition to that weight and mastery of timing he shares with Duke, that works like the most benign of charms. There is so much grace throughout it's part of the spell. A late-period masterwork that speaks to the listener on a personal, human, level.

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Julie Sassoon Quartet, Voyages, Jazzwerkstatt ****

It has been a long while since we have heard anything by UK pianist Julie Sassoon who now lives in Germany (her UK-based singer-pianist brother Jeremy Sassoon is very active on the home scene still) so this is welcome. Sassoon has also released a …

Published: 30 Dec 2021. Updated: 7 months.

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It has been a long while since we have heard anything by UK pianist Julie Sassoon who now lives in Germany (her UK-based singer-pianist brother Jeremy Sassoon is very active on the home scene still) so this is welcome. Sassoon has also released a solo piano record this year. Sometimes here you close your eyes and you are in a classical mood, otherwise it's avant-garde adventure all part of the arc of what is a carefully paced album.

The six tracks are no trifles and you get a weight to the pieces that says much for Sassoon's compositional skill, pianism and rapport with reedist Lothar Ohlmeier, bassist Meinrad Kneer and drummer Rudi Fischerlehner. Ohlmeier is a very robust player and on 'Jerusalem' ideas burst out as the piece becomes tense and ultimately tender.

Sassoon is best when she is at her most expansive as waves of energy heap up to roll in from nowhere on 'Outside' or navigate to another place entirely in the push-and-pull abundance of 'Missed Calls'. The quietly complex tone gradations and moods of 'Shifting' contribute to some of the finest aspects of what is a very satisying album. Photo: Tom Schweers

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