Sidsel Endresen: So I Write (ECM 1408)

Sidsel Endresen
So I Write

Sidsel Endresen vocal
Nils Petter Molvær trumpet, fluegelhorn, percussion
Django Bates piano
Jon Christensen percussion
Recorded June 1990 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Sidsel Endresen’s So I Write was the first ECM jazz vocal album I ever bought. While that in and of itself would have been enough to make it special, the music housed within its windswept sleeve made it unquantifiably more so. Just holding it in my hand above the used CD bin from which I’d fished it, I could already feel its shaded vistas spreading through me.

The title track is also the album’s first, and one could hardly dream of a more affecting introduction to this Norwegian chanteuse’s inner life. It is a sound-world in which the word is its own creator, one that utters itself into being in the floating pall of its residual meanings. Accompanied by the staggering palette of drummer Jon Christensen and the punctilious spirals of pianist Django Bates, Endresen travels far and wide along extemporaneous landscapes. “This Is The Movie” bolds and underlines the cinematic qualities of her breathy poetry, flitting through stills like sadness through transient life and tenderly exploring the complementary nature of love. In “Dreamland” she exchanges light for dark, turning a lullaby into a personal mantra in the process. The ever-lyrical horns of Nils Petter Molvær, who comments on every stirring from a respectful distance, bleed into “Words,” which spins from his plaintive salutation a letter of unbridled subtlety. Here we find ourselves embraced by the dangers of dreams and the depths of their promises. This leads us to explore in “Mirror Images” the boundaries of the image as the boundaries between flesh and self.

The mood takes a noticeable turn in the more abstract “Spring,” which separates its eponymous season as if it were a theater curtain, throwing the spotlight of an empty house on to a character whose life moves an idea of retribution through chaos. “Truth” carries this idea further into a purely rhythmic language before the human voice lays its biases on the water’s surface and casts the thrills of illusion into the emotional deep end, where we are met by “Horses In Rain.” Endresen fashions from this image a babbling where metaphor speaks for all, and where Bates’s thematic reflections close the door on this enigmatic date as would a mother exit her child’s room once the bedtime story has worked its magic.

So I Write is a musical gem and the perfect companion to any Norma Winstone album on your shelf. If these are only half the stories told, then we can take great comfort in writing our own remainder.

<< Shankar: Pancha Nadai Pallavi (ECM 1407)
>> Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra: s/t (ECM 1409)

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