Abdullah Ibrahim

South African Sunshine

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A live solo recording by the brilliant pianist, South African Sunshine is in several ways different from his standard recital. For one thing, he begins with two songs that feature vocals, which he performs himself. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his voice carries the same deep musical quality as his fingertips. Not only that, but the lyrics, dealing with the then-current apartheid situation, are sharp, poetic, and to the point, far from the generalized placebos that were in vogue at the time. The remainder of the concert is, as was his custom, a string of songs, some well-known from his repertoire (sometimes retitled), others appearing here for the first time. Standards are interpolated; in the midst of a roiling African rhythm, one suddenly hears a chorus of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning." Ibrahim ends the evening with a lovely and sprightly reading of Billy Strayhorn's haunting composition, "Chelsea Bridge." While not quite up to the incredible heights of some of his earlier solo recordings from the '60s and '70s, South African Sunshine is a very satisfying and frequently moving album. Recommended.

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