CD review

Marco Ambrosini’s Ensemble Supersonus – Resonances

Marco Ambrosini’s Ensemble Supersonus – Resonances
(ECM 776 3608. CD review by Peter Bacon)

Looking for a timbral shift from the conventional instruments of jazz? Look no further. To listen to Ensemble Supersonus’ Resonances after, say, Joshua Redman’s Spirit Of The Moment is to move in a trice from the hugging muggy fug of a Downtown basement club to the bank of a tinkling stream in an ice-filigreed forest. And from modern times back to who knows what century.

Marco Ambrosini plays the traditional Swedish nyckelharpa (a 16-stringed violin with keys is about as close as I can get to describing it) and his band comprises: Anna-Liisa Eller on kannel (an Estonian zither), Anna-Maria Hefele who plays harp, Wolf Janscha on jew’s harp, and Eva-Maria Rusche on harpsichord and square piano.

If these instruments alone guarantee some novelty of tone and timbre, it is the vocalist in the group who creates the most extraordinary sound of all. Hefele may play the conventional harp but her main instrument is her set of vocal cords. It is a set like no other I have heard; she is a supreme exponent of the art of overtone singing.

Anyone who has seen the video of Lalah Hathaway singing with Snarky Puppy for their Family Dinner Volume 1 album, is likely to have shared Michael League’s grin of amazement and joy as Hathaway sings two notes at once. Well, this is what Hefele does all the time – and when the polyphonic stuff isn’t quite so obvious it is because she is accentuating the often stratospheric overtones above the natural voice. The result is lines of exquisite and, yes, almost unnatural beauty. This technique could easily be something of a novelty act, were it not for the deep musical integrity of Hefele’s dedication to her art and to this music, into which it fits just perfectly.

Here is a taste:

The programme ranges from original pieces by individual members of the band to traditional folk songs to interpretations of Biber, Hildegard von Bingen and Frescobaldi. It is chamber music with a charming, relaxed feel despite the exacting playing needed by the musicians in order to coalesce so superbly. They leave lots of space and freedom for these captivating fresh timbres to work their incomparable magic. And a sustained magic is what resonates in the listener as a result.

LINKS: Ensemble Supersonus website

Anna-Maria Hefele demonstrating overtone singing

Live review of Supersonus in our 2019 Inntoene round-up

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