Susanne Abbuehl: Compass

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Swiss-born singer Susanne Abbuehl’s second set for ECM now makes a reappearance as one of ECM’s 50 Touchstones for its 50th birthday celebrations.

Rightly promoted as a literary voyage on many levels through music and text, the set features three poems from James Joyce’s Chamber Music, as well as an extract from Finnegans Wake, arrangements of two of Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs, a poem from William Carlos Williams, and music by Chick Corea and Sun Ra, among others.

Throughout, Abbuehl’s voice, either singing or speaking, is cool and undemonstrative, mesmeric in its quiet intimacy, her lyrics always well chosen and apposite. The music is sparsely but beautifully carried by Wolfert Brederode’s subtle piano, Lucas Niggli’s minimal percussive colouring, and the atmospheric clarinet of Christof May; Michel Portal only plays on two of the tracks.

If you want to be picky, you could describe this set as modern folk or even torch song and bemoan its lack of jazz, other than Where Flamingos Fly, first recorded by Ran Blake and Jeanne Lee and made famous by Gil Evans on Out Of The Cool. And, most notably, an ethereal and otherworldly transformation of Sun Ra’s A Call For All Demons from Angels and Demons At Play, where Abbuehl’s own lyrics are suitably haunted. But ignore categories, for this is a set of fine songs beautifully performed throughout.

Discography
Bathyal; Black Is The Color …; Where Flamingos Fly; Lo Fiolairé; Sea, Sea!; Don’t Set Sail; The Twilight Turns From Amethyst; Primrose; Bright Cap And Streamers; A Call For Demons; Children’s Song No 1; In The Dark Pine-Wood (53.39)
Abbuehl (v); Wolfert Brederode (p); Christof May (cl, bcl); Michel Portal (cl); Lucas Niggli (d, pc). Oslo, 2003, 2004.
ECM 1906 674 3530