The Gift

There are people who might find an album like this to be pretentious. It is remarkably spare, with a naked feel to the interplay of voice, flugelhorn, piano and drums. It is unabashedly literary, with lyrics by Emily Dickinson, Emily Brontë, Wallace Stevens, Sara Teasdale, and Susanne Abbuehl herself, all set to brooding musical accompaniment. If I were still teaching, and I tried to use this album as a vehicle for getting my students to open themselves to poetry, I know I’d be disappointed by their reaction. Most of them would likely hate it, unless I did a whole lot of prepping and pumping to talk them into liking it. But I did like it. Abbuehl has a very expressive voice, and Matthieu Michel’s flugelhorn sometimes sounds like an extension of her singing. The music, all written by Abbuehl, serves the poets well, never getting in the way of the power of the poems, and often enlarging the moods the poets evoke in readers. I don’t smoke pot these days, but if I did, I’d listen to this album when high.