Magda Mayas / Christine Abdelnour Sehnaoui - "Tiny shadows, as if through glass" (Teeming)
It might seem rude or irrelevant to bring up the marital status of a musician before the music they play, but bear with me. The name that self-trained alto saxophonist Christine Abdelnour Sehnaoui goes by on this CD is a transitional one. Previously she’d recorded simply as Christine Sehnaoui, and a month after recording this session in April 2009 she made Ichnites, her first under the name Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour. Formerly married to guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui, she’s also decisively branched out beyond the circle of Lebanese musicians with whom she made her first albums to play with a diverse array of European improvisers, including guitarist Andy Moor, electronic instrument inventor Michael Waisvisz, and Walkman motor vandal Pascal Battus. What Abdelnour Sehnaoui shares with them is a highly unsentimental approach to her instrument; like them, she is more interested in what she can make it do next than what it’s already done.
Although Berliner Magda Mayas plays the piano, which is about as burdened with history as an instrument can get, she fits well in such company. She’s busted whatever boundaries her classical training might have impelled her to inhabit in order to get at the piano’s essentials. Under her hands, it is a big box, a span of wires, a toppled harp, and every once in a while a keyboard instrument. Abdelnour Sehnaoui is even less likely to sound conventional; the forays into multiphonics that are her closest venture into recognizable saxophone language still count as extended technique. Like John Butcher or Mats Gustafsson, she has a flexible and confident command of a wealth of whistles, buzzes, pops and whirs that will likely banish all thoughts of Johnny Hodges or Ornette Coleman from your brain.
And like Mayas on piano, she gets to the saxophone’s essentials. But even more important, she and Mayas have the sort of rapport that is necessary for music made on the fly to take wings. No matter how unusual each player’s sounds may be, they sound like just the right thing in each other’s presence.