Abdullah Ibrahim, the virtuoso jazz composer known as Dollar Brand who born Adolph Johannes Brand, turned 82 last month and performed four solo piano concerts at Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre.
A fitting venue, as the master grew up and was educated close by, in the not quite “removed” and now slowly resurgent and gentrified District 6.
His performance was a melancholic medley of tunes that were thoughtful and poetic yet pained and certainly not particularly joyful, or as defiant as the finest of his “pièce de résistance” songs – Black Lightning, Ismaël or Manenberg – can be.
On entering, he appeared to walk with difficulty, possibly arthritic or hip problems, have beset the composer for “a hip king”.
However, his hands are as agile, elegant and firm as ever. They moved with grace and certainty across, wide over, and up and down the scales of his keyboard.
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Occasionally co-ordinating to select familiar refrains, including his own variation on Beethoven’s Für Elise; instead of Muss es sein — Ess muss sein [Must it be — It must be] his paired down, variation was a decipherable and equivocal What can be done — It can be done rose from time to time and was emitted from his signature Yamaha grand.
Other accented themes were tapped out like Morse code but not thunderously so.