AM 4: …and she answered: (ECM 1394)

 

AM 4
…and she answered:

Wolfgang Puschnig alto saxophone, alto flute, hojak, shakuhachi
Linda Sharrock vocals
Uli Scherer piano, prepared piano, keyboards
Recorded April 1989 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Four years before stepping into the studio to record the Korean crossover project Then Comes The White Tiger alongside the influential SamulNori, saxophonist and flutist Wolgang Puschnig and vocalist Linda Sharrock stepped into ECM’s Rainbow Studio with pianist Uli Scherer as AM 4 for an equally unusual project. Blending poetry and Nordic folk roots with jazz and subtle instrumentation, …and she answered: is as open-ended as the colon of its title. Sharrock captivates wherever she is featured in this project, though perhaps nowhere more so than in the opening “Streets And Rivers” (am I the only one who is reminded of Ani DiFranco’s “Buildings and Bridges”?), which parallels the pathos of life and the literatures through which we seek to divide it. Its synthesizer undercurrent and Jon Hassell-like blips unfurl a pathway for Pushcnig’s breathy alto, both matched by Sharrock’s languorous diction. The following track is as haunting as its title. “And She Answered: ‘When You Return To Me, I will Open Quick The Cage Door, I Will Let The Red Bird Flee’” paints a wide landscape populated with Puschnig’s animal cries. Through these horns a muted piano string drops its heavy footfalls and spins from its wool a yarn of darkness. All of this time in the field, as it were, leaves us open to a wrenching interpretation of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.” Here Sharrock is like a catalyst for instrumental change, leaving Puschnig and Scherer to navigate the channels of her words with a cartographer’s exactitude (the two likewise shine in the duo cut “Bhagavad” and in “Far Horizon”). This is one of two standards to creep into the mix, the other being a pointillist rendition of “Over The Rainbow,” which enchants with wisps of the familiar in an otherwise distant wash of flute and echo. Puschnig turns inward with “The Sadness Of Yuki.” The lipped strains of the shakuhachi thread the piano like time itself. We catch only flashes of imagery: a girl’s face, a bleak and oppressive house, an existence destined for ghostly things, as might be spoken through the aphasia of “Oh!” The latter brings the most rhythmic elements to bear on this eclectic set, and speaks to us through the shawm of its gamelan-encrusted interior. All of which leaves us alone with the intoned question in “One T’une,” of which gongs and air are a way of life.

ECM has thankfully made this overlooked release available through digital download, and it bears seeking out for those wanting to step off the label’s beaten path.

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