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The music on Susanne Abbuehl's recent ECM release April draws on diverse musical sources that result in a product that extends beyond that which is usually expected from a recording labeled as jazz. The music of Abbuehl and her fellow musicians at times resembles music more closely akin to an impression of the spare and angular sounds of early 20th century German Expressionism, or modern avant-garde music. Overall, there is a delightfully haunting cool edge to the music on April which should beckon the listener thirsty for inventive music conveying a somewhat reflective and melancholy mood.
The music on April is definitely a "thinking person's" music. Part of the cerebral appeal of the CD perhaps lies in the strong literary connections of the music. Five of the recording's eleven songs are based on poetry of e .e. cummings. Likewise, Abbuehl's original lyrics set with the music of Carla Bley or Wolfert Brederode also have strong poetic viability. Emotional content of the musical presentations on this CD are also notable. For example, Abbuehl's performance of the bebop anthem "Round Midnight" is an incredibly profound interpretation that most strikingly evokes the emotion of the melody and lyrics of Monk's classic masterpiece.
While Abbuehl's singing demonstrates a familiarity with stylizing a song in a jazz mode, her approaches to wordless vocalizing and the drumming of Samuel Rohrer also reveal influences of Middle Eastern and Indian music. The improvisations and accompaniment style of pianist Wolfert Brederode and clarinetist Christof May belie a more than casual familiarity to music in the jazz tradition. From a technical standpoint, the quality of the recording is first rate especially in terms of conveying the purity of Abbuehl's voice and clarity of her diction.
Jazz has always been an amalgam of different kinds of music, and it is a music that has had its share of artists who expose listeners to inventive new ideas of the potentialities of jazz. Susanne Abbuehl certainly continues this tradition. The hauntingly spare and inventive sounds of April should be a welcome addition to any jazz aficionado's CD collection.
Track Listing: Yes Is A Pleasant Country, Ida Lupino, Closer, All I Need, A.I.R.(All India Radio), Seven Somewhere I Have Never Traveled Gladly Beyond,
Skies May Be Blue; Yes, 'Round Midnight, Maggie And Milly And Molly And May, Since Feeling Is First, Mane Na
Personnel: Susanne Abbuehl, voice; Wolfert Brederode, piano, harmonium, melodica; Christof May, clarinet, bass clarinet; Samuel Rohrer, drums, percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.