First Spring (Alma Records)
Florian Hoefner Trio
If I recall appropriately, Florian Hoefner, the distinctive German-born jazz pianist now primarily based in St. John’s, Nfld., grew to become a Canadian citizen this yr. Given that his new album, First Spring, consists of an authentic monitor entitled Winter in June, I’d say Hoefner will get Canada in addition to anybody born right here.
You may even name his new album, First Spring, his most Canadian album but.
Yes, the affect of residing on the Rock for the previous few years — Hoefner teaches at Memorial University, as does his Canadian-born spouse, clarinetist Christine Carter — can clearly be discerned on chosen tracks on his most up-to-date albums, the solo album Coldwater Stories and the quartet album Luminosity.
But First Spring, which was launched in late September and which is being feted through the subsequent few nights at trio gigs in Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal, marks Hoefner’s first work with an all-Canadian group.
On his first trio album, he’s joined by the splendidly in-sync bass-and-drums pair from Toronto, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser. The trio breathes life superbly into 9 tracks that in the principle brings Hoefner’s jazz-based musical sensibility to bear on a various assortment of folk-music materials. This technique strikes me as a little bit of a Canadian jazz predilection, if not solely so.
Opening the album is Hound’s Tune. With it, Hoefner places his trio’s daring stamp on a bit by the late Newfoundland fiddle grasp Rufus Guinchard. A vital element on this effervescent opener is Downing’s dazzling arco taking part in, which reappears elsewhere on First Spring with the impression of a separate instrument. Here’s precisely how that tune went down:
The album takes a sombre, bluesy flip with the trio’s run via Calvary, Levon Helm’s rumbling, twanging epic. This affected person monitor transforms Helm’s gravelly model with out shedding its essence, and is spacious but additionally wealthy with the sorts of organized intricacies that grace Hoefner’s work with the German co-op quintet Subtone.
Hoefner returns to the Americana properly for a rendition of Sam Amidon’s easy lament Short Life. On this monitor, Downing presents one other soulful star flip together with his bowing and Hoefner’s taking part in is at its most bell-like earlier than he ratchets up the strain throughout his improvisation, properly shadowed by Fraser.
Hoefner roams additional afield when the trio addresses the unhappy strains of the Armenian folks music Loosin Yelav. With its glowing expressiveness and mature approach, the trio brings to thoughts a Keith Jarrett Trio efficiency.
Then, the trio launches into its tackle the waltzing Scottish folks music The Maid on the Shore, a minor-key romp that finally costs forward with an unabashedly swinging vibe.
Three Hoefner originals are woven into the move of the album, and so they mesh properly with the opposite materials and broaden the thrust of the disc.
The fascinating title monitor, written for Hoefner’s younger son Max, and Hoefner’s piece Solstice are lighter and extra buoyant than the album’s extra plaintive tracks. Solstice particularly is a surging, charging tune. Both tracks profit from Fraser’s impeccable musicality, which permits him to propel music and make it vividly vibrant on the similar time.
Hoefner’s piece Winter in June is slower and extra meditative earlier than it thaws out and turns into extra spirited.
Closing the album is an austere rendition of the standard piece Rain and Snow — a companion piece to Winter in June? — that brings an beautiful and superbly recorded album to a wonderful level of relaxation.
Having heard Hoefner now on file and in particular person performing solo and with a quartet, a quintet and now a trio, I’m stumped as to which context I favor him in. In each scenario, the music is so substantial and at occasions even breath-taking. I do know that I’ll be coming again to First Spring for extra fulfilling listens, to understand its forthright magnificence and this new expansiveness of Hoefner’s musical world.
The Florian Hoefner Trio performs:
Thursday, Oct. 24 at 9:30 p.m. on the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar in Toronto (with Andrew Downing and Jim Doxas)
Friday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. on the Conservatory in Hamilton (with Andrew Downing and Nick Fraser)
Saturday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Diese Onze in Montreal (with Adrian Vedady and Jim Doxas)