We don't often get ''earworms'' but did back in 2016 and do all over again every time hearing a new version. The piece that became one was 'Blue Bolero' heard live. The artist, Abdullah Ibrahim (above: photo via Gearbox on Bandcamp). And now a later 2020 version of 'Blue Bolero' recorded in Germany from upcoming album Solotude is streaming.
Nobody does stately grandeur and a sense of momentousness better than Ibrahim. How the earworm happened was hearing Ibrahim at London's Barbican. So on that occasion a man came on to the stage, touched the piano and left. Moments later, that touch completed a smile of recognition as we in the audience having momentarily sat in darkness saw what he did, the surprise in his eyes, and gently laughed at the ritual. Ibrahim, above, then came on and approached the Fazioli, its castors gleaming. Dressed in black, his clothes loose and comfortable-looking, his hair grey, mien dignified, began to play.
A hymn of concentration, the sheet music in front of him a little irrelevant but this was pure improvisation and an assembling once more of a lifetime of music with a few cues from the few staves there happened to be on the paper representing the roux, the essence, Ibrahim’s Ellingtonian body of work and artistry more to the point in his head and in his heart. Ibrahim didn’t speak at all and none of the tunes were announced. One theme, a thing of beauty, ‘Blue Bolero’, returned a few times within the first improvisation, the repetition a charm and besides this there were echoes of Monk particularly.
'Blue Bolero' was also recorded in a trio situation by the great South African jazz icon and global inspiration for instance on his Tiptoe/Enja label African Magic recording issued in 2002.
And now it is felicitously back once again, a reason for no small celebration. Other Solotude tracks besides 'Blue Bolero' (and two reprises of the piece) on the Gearbox November release are: Mindiff, Trieste My Love, Nisa, In-Tempo, Dreamtime, Peace, Blues For A Hip King (also on the aforementioned African Magic), District 6 and a reprise of the piece, Tokai, Pula, Sotho Blue, Did You Hear That Sound, In The Evening, Once Upon A Midnight, The Wedding and Signal On The Hill. Solotude was recorded at the Hirzinger Hall in the small Bavarian town of Riedering. Earworm time all over again. Lightning does, somehow, strike twice.