Susanna and Ensemble neoN: The Forester (2013)
If The Forester is any indication, If Grief Could Waita collaboration with Baroque harpist Giovanna Pessi, augmented by viola da gamba and nyckelharpawas a watershed for Susanna, as she turned her back on all things electric for a program of covers by Leonard Cohen, Henry Purcell and Nick Drake, in addition to two originals that appear, in similar yet considerably different form, on The Forester. The Forester pairs Susanna with Ensemble neoN, a cross-genre, cross-cultural collective of a dozen musicians, conductors and arrangers from which smaller subsets can also be drawn, depending on the needs of the music. In the case of The Forester, since Susanna handles both duties herself, all but pianist Heloisa Amaral and singer Silje Aker Johnsen were recruited.
Susanna's own version of The Forester's three-part title track is ultimately, at sixteen minutes to If Grief's ten, considerably more developed despite interpreting the identical lyrics, but begins with the same spare melodyon piano rather than harp. Susanna doubles the melody vocally, with the ensemble slowly emerging; one significant difference is Ensemble neoN's reliance, with the exception of Solmund Nystabakk's theorbo (a long-necked lute from the 16th century), on more modern instruments including violin, cello, saxophone, clarinets, flutes and percussion. But if the instrumentation is more contemporary, the approach is of a kind, resulting in music with gently shifting colors and gloriously delicate textures, all supporting Susanna's quietly commanding voiceexpressive without ever resorting to gymnastics.
Instead, throughout The Forester, Susanna delivers words that examine, in a most profound and poetic fashion, the joys and pitfalls of the human condition, her voice combining strength and vulnerability, and employing vibrato sparingly, as a device rather than a crutch. If If Grief Could Wait represented a new beginning for Susanna, The Forester further delivers on its promise, this time in a program of all-original material arranged for ensemble neoN by two of its members. Too late for inclusion in the 2013 Best Releases list, The Forester is already, as 2013 draws to a close, an early contender for one of the most impressive records of the coming year.
Track Listing: The Forester, I, II & III; Hangout; Oh, I Am Stuck; Intruder; Lonely Heart.
Personnel: Susanna Karolina Wallumrød: vocals, grand piano; Solmund Nystabakk: theorbo; Inga Byrkjeland: cello; Karin Hellqvist: violin; Ida Kristine Zimmermann Olsen: alto saxophone; Kristine Tjørgersen: clarinet, bass clarinet; Yumi Murakami: flute, alto flute; Ane Marthe Sørlien Holen: percussion; Magnus Loddgard: conductor.
Record Label: Susanna Sonata
Style: Beyond Jazz