Susanne Abbuehl
The Gift
ECM ****
With music composed to interpret the poetry of Sara Teasdale, Emily Brontë, Wallace Stevens, and above all Emily Dickinson, Susanne Abbuehl has retreated from the world to paradoxically embrace it on The Gift. As part of this process the Swiss/Dutch singer has changed her band, with only pianist Wolfert Brederode remaining from earlier albums April and Compass. Drummer Olavi Louhivuori, now in Oddarrang, who appeared to wider notice on Tomasz Stańko’s Dark Eyes is an apposite choice here, although his role within the chamber-jazz settings means he must remain subtle, as it’s an album that values space, a sense of longing, an exiling of overt rhythm, and the pleasures of the aftermath of a single note of music. The Swiss Matthieu Michel on flugelhorn is a truly mesmerising presence, his approach a calibrated diffidence that suits the source material and atmosphere of The Gift so very intuitively. But it’s Brederode’s artistry as an improvisational respondent to the voice beyond accompaniment that increases magnificently as the album unfolds, culminating in the variation of his use of Indian harmonium at the beginning of ‘This and My Heart’ especially. The Gift has a beautiful power all of its own making, with the shaping of mood, the channelling of the source texts and the knowing, at times Norma Winstone-like quality of Abbuehl’s voice and compositions so very rewarding. No track exists in isolation. The spontaneity of performance, and it is all the more remarkably a studio album after all, translating to private listening without any feeling of distance; its message, an inspiring one.
Stephen Graham 
Released on Monday 13 May