Reviews for Bruno Heinen/Kristian Borring - 'Postcard to Bill Evans'
BEST JAZZ ALBUMS OF 2015 - THE TELEGRAPH
The two albums made by the great Bill Evans with the guitarist Jim Hall a half-century ago are among the most exquisite jazz records ever made. So for young British pianist Bruno Heinen and Danish guitarist Kristian Borring to make a recording of some classical Evans numbers might seem like lèse-majesté. In fact they don’t suffer by the comparison. They’ve avoided the compositions on those two albums, recording seven Evans originals, plus Bernstein’s Some Other Time, Kern’s All The Things You Are and an original number by Heinen entitled Postcard to Bill that could almost be a long-lost original by the great man.Each track is a model of quiet stylishness, with nicely witty touches like the striding bass in Interplay, over which the melody lopes like a gazelle, or the ending of Show Type Tune, where a dancing phrase steps elegantly up the keyboard until it almost disappears off the top. It’s a tribute to how well these players know each other that they can bowl along in swinging rhythms for a minute at a stretch, without treading on each other’s toes. By the fourth track I was beginning to wonder whether the album wasn’t tipping over from sophistication into preciousness, but on numbers like Five real energy breaks through the cool surface. ★★★★☆ Ivan Hewett
As the arrangements feature piano and electric guitar only, Postcard To Bill Evans could conceivably have been recorded long before 2014. Yet there's nothing anachronistic about music that sounds so fresh: just as Evans reinvigorated older tunes with new life, Heinen and Borring do much the same with their predecessor's own songbook. - textura
Everybody Digs Bill Evans—so proclaims the title on the cover of the pianist's 1959 Riverside release. Certainly Bruno Heinen could be counted among those harbouring such a sentiment given that the London-based pianist has openly acknowledged Evans to be his biggest influence. But even deprived of that detail one would still be able to make the connection: Heinen shares with his predecessor key traits, among them delicacy of touch, elegant phrasemaking, and a penchant for lyricism, and like Evans he also deftly blends the refinement of classical technique with the fundamental swing of jazz. We shouldn't forget that while Postcard To Bill Evans centers on the pianist, it's also dedicated to guitarist Jim Hall, Evans' partner on many a session. Filling the guitar chair on this date is the London-based Danish musician Kristian Borring, with whom Heinen first crossed paths when the two were studying at London's Guildhall School of Music.
Evans had an alchemical gift for transforming familiar material into something new; the life he breathed into standards such as “Tenderly” and “My Romance” could make them feel as if they'd never been heard before. Yet while much of his playbook consisted of covers, Evans' own compositions today are standards in their own right, with jazz musicians regularly performing their own versions of “Waltz For Debby” and “Re: Person I Knew.” Though neither pieces appear on Postcard To Bill Evans, others by Evans do: “Time Remembered,” “34 Skidoo,” “Peri's Scope,” and “Show Type Tune” are present, for example, as are standards, including “Some Other Time” and a live performance of “All the Things You Are.” Appearing alongside the covers is a sole original, Heinen's title track.
“34 Skidoo” is so delicately rendered it verges on impressionistic, and melody and harmony dominate in treatments that are anything but raw and dissonant. Delicacy of touch and breeziness are present throughout, never more so than during the opening “Time Remembered,” which the pianist introduces with an Evans-styled solo before the guitarist joins in with his own fluid expressions, and “Peri's Scope,” a joyous and irrepressibly swinging tune Evans wrote for his girlfriend in 1959. The blues-bop side of his music comes even more to the fore during the Monk-ish“Five,” one of the recording's most playful pieces. Elsewhere, “Displacement” is elevated by the exuberance of the duo's playing, “Show Type Tune” exudes a rather bossa nova-esque quality thanks to the guitarist's chords, and the live “All the Things You Are” caps the release with eight minutes of high-energy interplay. Throughout the disc, Borring eschews distortion for a clean sound that complements Heinen's, something especially evident during the many times the two play in unison. Though it's typically the pianist who's heard first on the album's pieces, it's the guitarist who inaugurates the title track with Hall-like flourishes.
STYLISH, POLISHED, ETHEREAL TAKE ON GREAT PIANIST'S LITTLE-COVERED OEUVRE ★★★★☆ - MATTHEW WRIGHT - ARTS DESK
Jazz pianist Bill Evans was a titanic figure in jazz performance until addiction and death took him in 1980, his blend of strength and sensitivity unparalleled, while his collaborations with Miles Davis and Charles Mingus, among others, left epochal records. Yet Evans is covered much less frequently than his contemporaries, so this release by London jazz pianist Bruno Heinen and Danish guitarist Kristian Borring is a timely reminder of what we’ve been missing.
Heinen is best known for the intriguing album Tierkreis, which re-worked a 1974 piece of the same name written for 12 music boxes by German experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. While that collection gave free rein to Heinen’s conceptual flair, this one comes from the heart: it was a Bill Evans album that drew the classically-trained pianist into jazz.
The title track, the only original, is led by Borring’s agile guitar, his tone poised beautifully between adventure and reflection, joined first tentatively, then with increasing harmonic tenacity, by Heinen. The clearest traces of guitarist Jim Hall, who accompanied Evans on two acclaimed 1960s albums, emerge here in Borring’s delicate, playful phrasing. The interaction between players is sumptuous throughout, with a profound sense of mutual harmonic understanding and a series of absorbing duels.
Most of the rest are Evans favourites: “34 Skidoo”, here sounding more silky and ethereal than the original, and “Peri’s Scope”, full of Evans’ band’s quizzical energy, with a purer sound, are typical of this duo’s approach. Heinen’s Steinway and Borring’s guitar have a polished resonance that creates beautiful, transparent pools of sound in which the audience can float, or sink. Sometimes, with both players pealing together it can sound a bit too bright, the lack of earthy timbres felt, but it suits their contemplative take on Evans. Live, there are more originals in the repertoire, and their inclusion here could have created a sense of dialogue with Evans, but as a tribute to him, this is distinctive, absorbing and stylish.
ALBUM LAUNCH REVIEW - A HIGHLY ELEGANT EVENING OF EVANSIANA THAT JOURNEYED TO THE HEART OF MODERN JAZZ, THE PULSE OF IT ALL STILL TURNING OVER AND BEATING STRONG AND SURE. - MARLBANK
Within the benevolent womb of sound as we sat at small tables illuminated by little tea lights, above us balloon-like globes that looked like water-filled moons, the two players, Kristian Borring on his bespoke Victor Baker-designed guitar, and Bruno Heinen perched at a simple upright piano, were playing material largely drawn from their new album on Babel, Postcard to Bill Evans.
With the lights so low the gleam of camera phones was largely, and perhaps refreshingly, absent as everything was so dark as to prevent any wannabe David Baileys in the room pick up anything but the faintest of outlines, the shining was all in the playing. Heinen – familiar from his very different Stockhausen project Tierkreis from two years ago – and Borring whose impressionistic Urban Novel came out to appreciative murmurs last year, found themselves in intimate surroundings at this Kingsland Road restaurant wine-bar, an adjective Heinen himself chose when he spoke quietly to the audience talking briefly as he courteously called out the names of the tunes.
Deliberately avoiding any of the repertoire on Bill Evans’ two albums with Jim Hall, Undercurrent and Intermodulation made four years apart in the 1960s, the shadow of both albums nonetheless loomed large here certainly in the glistening acoustic ping of after notes, the succinctness of chordal empathy, the power of concentration and bliss of release.
Borring, jacketed in the first half, running his long fingers up and down the neck of the guitar fashioning arches, completing complicated scrunching and sliding friction as he deftly delivered a ready stream of knowing progressions occasionally octave-leaping like Wes Montgomery, the lead notes of each player developed independent lines parallel in their instincts via modal counterpoint.
Heinen, in the more bop-derived sections, drew out the Bud Powell side of Evans’ playing but mainly emphasised the sheer lyricism of the style and in-the-moment reaction to his playing partner’s hints and ideas, the conversational aspect of their interplay a factor.
Tunes in the first set included ‘Time Remembered’ and ‘Gone with the Wind’ (the pair mixing standards that Evans played as well as the pianist’s own compositions).
The ghost in the room, again not played like the Hall-Evans material, was ‘Blue in Green’ from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, but again it was the overall atmosphere rather than ticking off and trotting through headline pieces that counted. The version of Jimmy Rowles’ powerfully invasive ballad ‘The Peacocks’ was a big highlight, waftingly gentle and yet full of emotion in the sweep of the interpretation.
Sitting in a venue named after a classic Thelonious Monk album and hearing the pair late-on play a scurrying version of Monk’s ‘Bemsha Swing’, a tune that appeared on the 1957 Riverside album, guitar taking the melody first, seemed appropriate and a match in a highly elegant evening of Evansiana that journeyed to the heart of modern jazz, the pulse of it all still turning over and beating strong and sure.
AN ALBUM WHICH DECLARES A DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF EVANS' CATALOGUE, THERE'S A REAL SENSE OF JAZZ TRADITION BEING CHERISHED AND PASSED ON, WITH NEW LIFE AND INVENTION SENSITIVELY BREATHED INTO IT. FULL OF GRADUALLY UNFOLDING NUANCES, IT PLEASINGLY BECOMES A POSTCARD TO KEEp - ADRIAN PALLANT - LONDON JAZZ
The postcard reference in the title of this new duo release from London-based artists Bruno Heinen (piano) and Kristian Borring (guitar) is significant, as there is a background thread which demonstrates the power and influence of continuity; the passing-down of musical brilliance and knowledge to future jazz generations.
Bruno Heinen cites Bill Evans – and initially his own uncle Johannes Heinen, a Cologne-based jazz pianist, who gave him a copy of Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard – as his route into jazz. At the Royal College of Music, Heinen was until that point focused primarily on his classical music studies, "but that album opened my ears to a whole new way of thinking. I was drawn first to his sound and classical approach. I transcribed most of the solos from that album, and began the work of learning the language." He would later be taught and inspired, as were many others, by John Taylor at the Guildhall School of Music (where this duo first met, on the jazz post-grad course) – and it is both Evans and Taylor that Heinen names as his greatest influences.
There's a certain adventurousness in recording an album of venerated Bill Evans originals (as the majority of these ten tracks are); and the concept of piano-and-guitar interpretations seems more daring still. But this collaboration throws a different light on these 1950s/60s treasures with remarkable parity of chordal structure and improvised solo line (so much so that one could almost envisage two interlocked Steinways, were it not for the mellow, often playful breeziness of Kristian Borring's guitar tone). So, in opener Time Remembered, Borring's ascending and descending cadences weave organically into Heinen's opening solo statement before the duo continue to share and intertwine ideas. The skipping melodies of Peri's Scope's (a half century or more later, and sans bass and drums) are invigorated in this charming, levitational reading – a delicate balance which is, nevertheless, always assured; and 34 Skidoo's original, jaunty waltz is painted afresh, in delicate, rain-drizzled watercolour.
The bluesy swagger of Evans' Interplay is more introverted here, though its new, subtly impish character is defined by the duo's precise, tiptoed interaction; and, in similar vein, familiar Five rolls cheekily to intricately crossing counterpoint and beautifully suggested, non-percussive rhythm. The extended conjoining of Epilogueand Leonard Bernstein's Some Other Time reveals perhaps the most reverential attention to Bill Evans' searching, pianistic persona – nine minutes of glorious, quietly-shifting extemporisation which almost evade time; and Displacement (going back to 1956) again retains the sprightly charm of Evans' original, both musicians tidily scampering with a seemingly innate sense of equilbrium.
Heinen's own composition, Postcard to Bill, suggests something of a 'giving back' to the master, as Borring's eloquent solo heralds an amiable, sunshiny outing which could just as easily have been selected from Evans' repertoire – and Heinen's own solo feature here is particularly fine-spun. The sumptuous, Evans-style, chordal rubato of Show Type Tune's piano introduction breaks into blithe, lilting bossa, with Borring's characterful, nimble guitar improvisation and Heinen's high octaves the key to its elegance; and, to close, the warmth of this partnership is magnified in a magnificently swinging, live rendition of Jerome Kern's All The Things You Are(recorded at the Vortex).
In an album which declares a deep understanding of Evans' catalogue, there's a real sense of jazz tradition being cherished and passed on, with new life and invention sensitively breathed into it. Full of gradually unfolding nuances, it pleasingly becomes a postcard to keep.
BRITISH-BASED PIANO-GUITAR DUO BRUNO HEINEN AND KRISTIAN BORRING BRING A SYNERGY TO THEIR PLAYING THAT IS ALMOST ON A PAR WITH THAT OF EVANS AND HIS SOMETIME COLLABORATOR JIM HALL CHRIS PEARSON - THE TIMES
The spirit of the American pianist Bill Evans looms almost as large in contemporary jazz as those of Miles and Trane. This tribute is therefore nothing unusual. Yet the British-based piano-guitar duo Bruno Heinen and Kristian Borring bring a synergy to their playing that is almost on a par with that of Evans and his sometime collaborator Jim Hall. Standout tracks include a lyrical 34 Skidoo and some ear-catching piano riffs in Show Type Tune. Will you buy this in preference to the original albums? Of course not — but you definitely should catch them live. (Babel)
WHAT A DELIGHT - BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
What a delight! A choice selection of Evans' classic compositions, a standard and an original by Heinen which is also the title track. Postcard to Bill Evans is arguably the best track on the CD although that is a very subjective and ephemeral judgement as, each time I play the album another one gets its nose in front!
Apart from the title track and All the Things You Are, the other eight pieces are pretty well known items from the Bill Evans songbook reminding us just how talented he was, not just as a pianist but also as a composer. Heinen is deeply into Evans without losing his own identity and fully deserving of accolades from such as The Guardian's John Fordham - "the kind of erudite and curious new arrival destined to make a real difference".
Danish guitarist Borring is with him all the way and the pairing often brings to mind the legendary sessions Evans did with Jim Hall.
GORGEOUS TRIBUTE...PLAYED WITH GREAT SENSITIVITY AS WELL AS IMPRESSIVE TECHNICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT. - JOHN WATSON - JAZZ CAMERA
Anyone who loved the classic collaborations between the great pianist Bill Evans and guitar master Jim Hall - and who could not? - will certainly warm to this gorgeous tribute from London-based pianist Bruno Heinen and Danish guitarist Kristian Borring. Their empathy with the music of Evans is engaging, and these ten tracks - mostly compositions by Evans - are played with great sensitivity as well as impressive technical accomplishment.
The classics include 'Time Remembered', 'Peri's Scope', '34 Skidoo' (given ballad treatment here) and 'Show Type Tune'. The sixth track combines a lovely solo piano performance of Evans' 'Epilogue' with Leonard Bernstein's 'Some Other Time' (from the musical 'On The Town', and which Evans recorded with Tony Bennett), with Borring's subtle guitar leading the melody. Borring also leads the tender introduction to the one original compositon on the disc, Heinen's 'Postcard To Bill', a mellow piece which picks up into a gentle swinger as the pianist takes up the theme. The album closes with a sprightly uptempo workhout on Jerome Kern's 'All The Things You Are', recorded live at The Vortex in London.
A really satisfying album, and fans can catch the duo live at venues including tonight (September 4th) at the Con Cellar Bar, Constitution Pub, Camden, London; Sheffileld Firth Hall on October 24; at The Vortex as part of the London Jazz Festival on November 14; and at the Royal Festival Hall Foyer in London on January 22 next year.
The whole album does Bill Evans proud. I reached down for my own copy of Sunday at the Village Vanguard and reminded myself of what a truly great musician Bill Evans was. - Sandy Brown jazz
Has there ever been a more influential modern jazz pianist than Bill Evans? Probably, but, even so, it does seem sometimes that the current crop of up and coming jazz pianists all have at least a little bit of Bill in their DNA.
As the title implies, Postcard to Bill Evans is an album which is explicit about the debt. The pianist, Bruno Heinen and guitarist, Kristian Borring, take a number of Evans tunes and reinterpret them in a way that isn’t some slavish pastiche but a genuine reworking for a contemporary audience. “Bill Evans was my way in to jazz”, says Heinen,
“…at 18 years old, my uncle (Johannes Heinen – a Koln based jazz pianist) gave me a copy of Sunday at the Village Vanguard. At the time I was only playing classical music (and hadn’t checked out much jazz at all), but that album opened my ears to a whole new way of thinking. I was drawn first to his sound and classical approach. I transcribed most of his solos from that album, and began the work of learning the language.”
Heinen went on to study classical piano at the Royal College of Music, and took his jazz Masters at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he was taught by the late John Taylor. He now teaches at the Guildhall. The Danish guitarist, Kristian Borring, studied jazz guitar at the Conservatorium Van Amsterdam before also ending up at the Guildhall and meeting Heinen there. Both musicians are now based in London.
The pairing of piano and guitar inevitably brings to mind the duets between Evans and guitarist, Jim Hall. Although Borring is clearly influenced by Jim Hall, he has his own style; and both Borring and Heinen are at pains not to be seen as merely copying the original Evans-Hall partnership. They have, for example, chosen compositions which were not those generally played by Evans and Hall together.
Bill Evans has become famous for a reflective way of playing which favours slower tempos and the creation of mood and emotion rather than ostentatious technical virtuosity; a style which owes as much to Debussy and Ravel as to Jelly Roll Morton. But he could also swing – sometimes pretty vigorously. And it is this more upbeat, playful Evans which Heinen and Borring are, for the most part, seeking to remember. Take the first track, for example, Time Remembered, an Evans composition from 1962. Heinen begins with a typical piece of Evans piano, creating a mood of slightly melancholic nostalgia. Borring gently ups the beat before both instruments - either together or soloing - launch into a gently swinging, foot tapping and very enjoyable performance.
The tempo is kept up on the next track, Peri’s Scope, from 1959. The main theme is a memorable one which takes some quite unexpected directions proving that Evans could be an interesting and accomplished composer as well as a great stylist. 34 Skidoo is more typical Evans, a dreamy ballad creating a mood of relaxed contemplation – and is, incidentally, another great tune. Piano and guitar play off each other very effectively. The fourth track, Interplay, is a jaunty blues with some great piano-guitar interplay sounding almost Bach-like, albeit Bach as filtered through Jacques Loussier.
Five is another upbeat piece with an edge reminiscent of Thelonious Monk. Again, there is an almost telepathic interplay between the two musicians which turns into something like the work Jim Hall did with another musical partner, Jimmy Guiffre, in the late fifties: light, cool, clever.
Epilogue/Some Other Time is two tunes taken together: Epilogue is an Evans composition in his slow, thoughtful mode which Heinen plays beautifully in a liquid avalanche of notes. This turns into Leonard Bernstein’s Some Other Timeplayed by both piano and guitar.
Displacement is a 1956 composition by Evans played at quite a quick tempo and notable for Borring’s Wes Montgomery chords. Postcard to Bill is composed by Bruno Heinen and begins with a slowish but effective guitar solo. The piano comes in and the beat steadily increases into a foot tapping, swinging, absorbing performance. Show Type Tune is back to Bill Evans and was written in 1962. It has a bossa nova beat, Heinen plays a jaunty solo, and Borring stretches out confidently on his solo sounding at times like Joao Gilberto on those Stan Getz records.
The final track is a live performance of the Jerome Kern standard (and Bill Evans favourite), All The Things You Are, recorded at the Vortex Jazz Club in London. Both Heinen and Borring let rip with some confident solos but also play marvellously together in a sort of staccato counterpoint.
The whole album does Bill Evans proud. I reached down for my own copy of Sunday at the Village Vanguard and reminded myself of what a truly great musician Bill Evans was.
Reviews for Bruno Heinen Sextet - 'Tierkreis'
“ * * * * Erudition, eclectic studies and a jazz sensibility make Heinen the kind of newcomer who repositions the goalposts.” - John Fordham – Guardian
This impressive set by Bruno Heinen is the young pianist's jazz interpretation of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Tierkreis, the tone-row suite structured on the signs of the zodiac that his classical-musician parents performed with Stockhausen himself in the 1970s. Reworked for a resourceful European group including pure-toned trumpeter Fulvio Sigurtà, bass clarinetist James Allsopp and tenor saxist Tom Challenger, Tierkreis is the best kind of crossover project. It's full of melody, and glowing with jazzy ensemble sounds; it's content to let minimal, tinkling melodies (the original Tierkreis was for 12 music boxes) run on, but prodded by rugged percussion; and features passages in which trumpet parts like classical fanfares give way to wriggling tenor-sax improv. Challenger's variations on Gemini are gripping in their snaking lines and high, startled blips, and the band sounds like a coolly jazz-infused downtown New York group over Jon Scott's brittle drumming on the lissome, steadily building Cancer. Erudition, eclectic studies and a jazz sensibility make Heinen the kind of newcomer who repositions the goalposts.
"Bruno Heinen's 'Tierkreis' CD is a knockout!...I really loved it" - Sir Simon Rattle
"The CD is very inventive and beautiful, The nice thing about your version is the humour combined with the musicality. It is far more interesting than a lot of other versions from 'classical' musicians. The use of the original boxes is also very moving. I am sure Stockhausen would have liked your version!" - Kathinka Pasveer, Stockhausen Foundation, Kurten
It works brilliantly. The playing is tuneful and intricate, building snippets of tone-rows into twisting, spontaneous textures. - Kate Molleson – Big Issue
Speaking of stylistic explosions, how about a Stockhausen/jazz fusion album? The London-based pianist Bruno Heinen has come up with a fascinating new take on Stockhausen’s Tierkreis.
The original is a 1970s suite for 12 music boxes based on the signs of the zodiac. Heinen arranges it for a mellow-toned jazz sextet including trumpet, clarinet and tenor sax.
It works brilliantly. The playing is tuneful and intricate, building snippets of tone-rows into twisting, spontaneous textures. Stockhausen may have a reputation for fierce control but Heinen makes the point that he was a major influence on jazz artists such as Miles Davis and Charles Mingus, and that much of his music leaves room for improvisation. This album’s imagination is proof enough.
Tiekreis contains some of the most accessible and attractive music in this batch of Babel- Mike Butler, Dyverse Music
Not what I was expecting. Mention of the name Karlheinz Stockhausen is apt to give rise to mixed feelings. The heart leaps at the thought of all those expanding boundaries, and simultaneously sinks at what this might entail in practise. In fact, Tiekreis contains some of the most accessible and attractive music in this batch of Babel. It starts with a beautiful solo piano piece,'Aries', and proceeds with the positively groovy 'Taurus', where the oblique melody is adorned with gospel cadences, with distant echoes of township jazz. Things began tinkly, and get even more tinkly by the end, but there is a rational explanation: Stockhausen's Tierkreis was originally composed for twelve musical boxes. These tunes, based on tone rows and named after the signs of the Zodiac, have been variously re-arranged and re-harmonised by Bruno Heinen for combinations of his Sextet, notably Fulvio Sigurta on trumpet and Tom Challenger on tenor sax. 'Virgo' is Sigurta's set-piece, and this distillation to the essence of trumpet, piano and music-box sores on both sensitivity and economy. Challenger most obviously affirms traditional jazz values, and 'Gemini' is as lush and moody as anything by Stan Getz: 'Scorpio' even manages to fit a Blue Note square into a Stockhausen circle. Overall, Tiekreis points the way out of the cul-de-sac of head-solo-solo-head of jazz orthodoxy. The tunes might have been composed according to a rigid theory but they supply rich emotional fuel for these great players: I might also mention James Allopp on bass clarinet, Andrea Di Biase on bass and Jon Scott on drums, who gets to duet with a music-box on 'Libra'.
As impressive as the preceding albums are, the shiniest jewel in this particular Babel crown is Karlheinz Stockhausen's Tierkreis as realized by the Bruno Heinen Sextet...The album is an absolute delight from start to finish, one that can be admired on conceptual grounds as well as enjoyed at the immediate, purely musical level - Textura Magazine, Canada
As impressive as the preceding albums are, the shiniest jewel in this particular Babel crown is Karlheinz Stockhausen's Tierkreis as realized by the Bruno Heinen Sextet. On this superb collection, the London-based pianist Heinen leads a band featuring trumpeter Fulvio Sigurtà, bass clarinetist James Allsopp, tenor saxist Tom Challenger, bassist Andrea Di Biase, and drummer Jon Scott through a jazz-styled interpretation of the composer's 1974-75 work Tierkreis. The title, which translated refers to the signs of the zodiac, figures significantly into the tone row-based work's structure, as the composition features twelve melodies, each one representing one of the star signs. Adding to the work's distinctiveness, Tierkreis originally was written for twelve music boxes as part of a children's theatre piece called Musik im Bauch (Music in the Belly).
There are certain guidelines the musician is instructed to follow—a given performance must start with the melody associated with the star sign that coincides with the performance date, and the presentation should proceed through all twelve signs before ending with a recapitulation of the opening melody—but Stockhausen also designed the piece so that it could be played by any instrument or combination of instruments. It's a perfect vehicle, then, for someone with Heinen's visionary bent; it's also a natural choice, given that his classical-musician parents, cellist Ulrich Heinen and violinist Jacqueline Ross, performed the piece with Stockhausen in the ‘70s.
The recording begins with the sound of a music box being cranked, after which the haunting “Aries” theme is voiced by the music box and piano in a captivating duet that highlights Heinen's delicate touch and technical command. Thereafter, the group covers multiple bases, from fiery blowing (the militant “Leo” and funky “Scorpio”) to sensitive ballad renderings (“Gemini”), with some pieces accentuating improv and others intricate arrangements. In a lovely small-group treatment of “Gemini,” Challenger's burnished tenor gives the piece a late-night feel that's sensitively supported by Heinen's piano, Di Biase's bass, and Scott's brushes. The band wraps the bluesy “Cancer,” on the other hand, in an intricate arrangement that still allows ample room for Sigurtà and Heinen to solo. In a few instances, the group veers away from a jazz approach for something more conservatory-styled, such as “Virgo,” a contemplative setting for trumpet, piano, and musical box, and “Capricorn,” which sees Allsopp and Sigurtà taking splendid solo turns.
No listener coming to the recording need be intimidated by its background details, as Heinen and company make Stockhausen's music as accessible as it could possibly be. In their hands, the material turns into inspired jazz ensemble settings that feel in no way constrained by Stockhausen's writing. An occasional music box appears to re-affirm the work's originating identity, but for the most part the album's a fifty-five-minute document of free-flowing exuberance. The playing is at a consistently high level, and the album is an absolute delight from start to finish, one that can be admired on conceptual grounds as well as enjoyed at the immediate, purely musical level. Babel spared no expense in the release's presentation either, as Heinen's disc is complemented by a vibrant sleeve design and accompanied by an equally striking poster, whose playful display is an ideal complement to the music.
Heinen really worked with the material and took liberties with the composition that are not all too common in the interpretation of ‘classical’ music, but which I like to think are closer to what Stockhausen himself would have liked - Oscar Strik – Evening Of Light – Netherland
Karlheinz Stockhausen’s piece Tierkreis (composed in 1974/75) is a zodiacal work that leaves a lot of freedom to the performer. This series of twelve melodies, one for each sign, was originally written for music boxes, but can basically be played on any instrument, and there have been many different versions: for piano, voice, lute, orchestra, etc. A search on YouTube will yield several examples to satisfy your curiosity. Interpreted like this, the music often maintains much of its original airiness, but you could just as well jazzify the thing, which is what Bruno Heinen did with his sextet (Heinen: piano; Sigurta: trumpet; Allsopp: bass clarinet; Challenger: tenor sax; Di Biase: bass; Scott: drums).
This group interpretation, starting and ending with the sign of Aries, all according to Stockhausen’s original performance rules, combines much of the open tonality of the composition with arrangements that add jazzy harmony and further experiments. In this way, the music sounds slightly more conventional at times, but there are also lots of moments where some of the cosmic strangeness present in the ‘bare’ versions of the piece is retained, not to mention room for improvisation that adds another layer to the work.
The faithfulness to the original melodies differs per sign — the two Aries tracks, as well as e.g. Libra and Capricorn, are very conservative, and they even retain music boxes as an instrument, though combined with touches of piano, and in the case of the closing track, subtle bass bowing. Even when the full band is at it, such as in Leo, the original melodies often have center stage, although carried by trumpet in this case. At other times, the new arrangements are more conspicuous than the original melodies. Accordingly, the moods are quite different in each ‘sign’, making this a highly varied album. As said, the opener has the estranging tonality of the original, but Taurus quickly shifts to an upbeat energy. Gemini, however, is extremely laid back, moving into almost stereotypical jazz territory with lounging calm piano and sax leads. Then there’s plenty of improvisation and soloing, even just drums near the end of Cancer, which is always nice to hear — for a drummer, at least.
I came into the album expecting, for some reason, an interpretation in which the original melodies were for the greater part performed on jazz instruments, but adding little to Stockhausen’s original guidelines. However, Heinen really worked with the material and took liberties with the composition that are not all too common in the interpretation of ‘classical’ music, but which I like to think are closer to what Stockhausen himself would have liked, in the spirit of experimentation. The result is a relatively smooth work, compared to the ‘naive’ original, one that highlights many aspects of jazz, but which also does justice to Stockhausen’s original melodies. It took me some time to get used to, but this Tierkreis is an excellent and versatile work.
Touching on the furthest precincts of nostalgia and commemoration, this work provides fresh perspectives on both Tierkreis and the methodologies of modern jazz. - Stuart Broomer – Music Works – Canada
Tierkreis (German for zodiac) is Stockhausen’s most accessible, most adapted, and likely best-known work. It may also be the most symmetrical, its twelve movements conforming to the zodiac’s twelve signs, each melody based on a twelve-tone row, the pieces arranged in the sequence of the chromatic scale. The original sound source ensures the piece’s celebrity: Stockhausen had a music box constructed for each of the melodies. Bruno Heinen, an English jazz pianist whose parents played with Stockhausen, has arranged Tierkris for a jazz sextet with five of the music boxes in hand.
From the opening sound of a music box being wound, Heinen keeps finding ways to expand and vary the material, deploying the members of his band in surprising ways. “Gemini,” a quartet feature for tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger, is reharmonized into a moody ballad that suggests mid-’60s Wayne Shorter, while “Libra” has Heinen playing the music box in a duet with drummer Jon Scott. Contrasts abound: Fulvio Seguria’s clarion trumpet adds an element of baroque fanfare to the theme statement of “Leo,” while bass clarinettist James Allsopp takes free-jazz liberties with “Scorpio.”
Touching on the furthest precincts of nostalgia and commemoration, this work provides fresh perspectives on both Tierkreis and the methodologies of modern jazz.
* * * * Beginning and ending with "Aries", the 13 pieces are surprisingly varied, from cool-school classicism to jerky funk, with the leader's piano lending Tierkreis (German for "Zodiac") a consistently intelligent linking voice. - Phil Johnson – Independent
The parents of pianist Bruno Heinen were musical associates of Karlheinz Stockhausen, and this lovely jazz interpretation of the composer's famous astrological suite begins with the sound of one of its original wind-up music boxes.Beginning and ending with "Aries", the 13 pieces are surprisingly varied, from cool-school classicism to jerky funk, with the leader's piano lending Tierkreis (German for "Zodiac") a consistently intelligent linking voice.
This album is on every point remarkable; arrangement and interpretation, everything combines to to make a really inventive jazz album, full of colours. It is a beautiful discovery. - Culture Jazz – France
It’s a very accomplished album on every level, even the album cover. A very contrasted interpretation, integrating the music boxes, which bring a fragile, delicate and sensitive feel to this album. The character of this ablum is in the choices of the arranger whom knew how to stand out from the original while respecting the spirit and the melodies, and whom also find out the right instrumental combination that bring out the colours of each piece. This album is on every point remarkable; arrangement and interpretation, everything combines to to make a really inventive jazz album, full of colours. It is a beautiful discovery.
Perfect sounds for those who think Karlheinz Stockhausen’s music is difficult is Tierkreis (1974-75), initially composed for 12 music boxes reflecting the signs of the zodiac, and then adapted for any number of instruments. With the sanction of the composer’s son, British pianist Bruno Heinen, whose parents were Stockhausen associates, has created a jazz-improv variant of the suite for bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, trumpet, double bass, drums, his own piano and, on certain tracks, five music boxes, bookending the performance as the composer demands, with an identical melody reflecting the session date’s star sign.
* * * * * This album satisfies both emotionally and mentally, and it's been on repeat in my car for multiple weeks now. To restate another reviewer, don't let the 'S' word scare you. This is the sort of true craftsmanship and dedication in music that all of us crave. Do yourself a favor and listen to "Tierkreis" many times. - Josh Landry – Musique Machine, USA
Bruno Heinen Sextet - Karlheinz Stockhausen's Tierkreis [Babel - 2013]
For his latest album, multitalented band leader and virtuoso jazz pianist Bruno Heinen has attempted the daunting task of performing a jazz flavored orchestration of the austere Karlheinz Stockhausen's piece for 12 music boxes, "Tierkreis". How he has transmuted this work into something so romantic, evocative, organic, relatable and fluid is beyond me. On the other hand, the original work was created, as per the constraints of the chosen instrument, totally within the confines of the traditional 12 tones, and could therefore be seen as indicative of a side of Stockhausen not commonly acknowledged. It seems he may have been capable of a form of uneasy serialist modern classical comparable to Berg or Messiaen, in which fragments of scales and tonalities are sewn strangely together in a dense, emotionally restless patchwork which rarely stays in one place for long and never resolves predictably, yet retains some basic melodious beauty, and stands as a natural extention and distillation of the works of Debussy or Mahler a century previous. This is an intensely cerebral and intelligent record, with Stockhausen's 'tone rows' functioning as the oddest of head melodies, guiding Bruno's multifaceted, expressive and diverse extrapolations. Heinen draws an entire world of feelings out of the tonal sequences, ensures that there is never an emotive opportunity missed. Indeed, he makes what could have been merely 'stimulating' is warm and inviting. Heinen runs the gamut between so many emotions, from echoes of the sultry, romantic night life conjured up by classic jazz to the brooding solitary alienation of 20th century avant garde classical composers, to the naked, eerie and fragile sound of the music box, which plays on its own at the beginning and end of the album, in a poetic gesture. Every musician's performance is both technically virtuosic and beautiful, candid and expressive. Each horn player's tone is liquid and sonorous, and the drummer (also in the similarly virtuosic and excellent band Dice Factory) has a breathtakingly natural grasp of how to infuse odd meters with groove. The players know when to duck back and let another shine, as well, and the most obviously impromptu moments of the record tend to be plaintive solos that function as soliloquies. It's difficult to say where composition ends and improvisation begins, as many of the unison lines, complex harmonizations, odd meters and lush, detailed chord progressions could not have been improvisation, and yet these are strongly jazz flavored, and Stockhausen is only credited with the initial tone rows, as far as I can tell. Heinen has somehow created fully formed jazz compositions which blossom spectacularly in Stockhausen's unlikely framework, truly symbiotic with the source material. Wrapping one's mind around what is going on in this music, or indeed what kind of music it is, is quite the exquisite difficulty, however it is certainly quite worth it. Ultimately what we have is one of the most ambitious recordings I've ever come across, and it is a masterful success at every turn. An entire world of musical history is contained in the studied, luminously melodic sound found here. Fans of jazz should find plenty to dig into, while adventurous classical listeners will recognize just as many hints of their favorite composers. This album satisfies both emotionally and mentally, and it's been on repeat in my car for multiple weeks now. To restate another reviewer, don't let the 'S' word scare you. This is the sort of true craftsmanship and dedication in music that all of us crave. Do yourself a favor and listen to "Tierkreis" many times.
(Heinen's) reimagining is just as impressive and as ingenious - The Whole Note – USA
Rather than cheapening Tierkreis, if anything Heinen expands the structures by appending keyboard cascades and chords to the tinny music box melody as the intro and coda. Elsewhere his reimagining is just as impressive and as ingenious. Scorpio, for instance, not only revolves on bassist Andrea Di Biase’s funky bottom, but is also a feature for James Allsopp’s slurping bass clarinet which deconstructs the theme at staccatissimo tempo. Cancer becomes a Jazz Messengers-like swinger with the horn parts stacked on top of one another, jagged and pumping piano chording and blunt thumps from drummer Jon Scott. Fluvio Sigurtà, whose trumpet brings march-tempo grace notes and brassy smears to counter tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger’s snorts and bites on Leo, in contrast portrays heart-wrenching balladry on Capicorn. Despite tremolo runs from Challenger plus the trumpeter’s emotional grace notes, Allsopp’s melody-stretching and music box tinkles reconstitute the latter piece as recital hall ready.
Those who prefer the composer’s more austere and difficult electro-acoustic pieces should probably shy away from this zodiac-themed work anyhow. Most listeners however will applaud Heinen’s transformation of Stockhausen’s popular work into high quality jazz that adheres to the composer’s original intentions.
* * * * Their warm, melodic and always intriguing explorations reconfigure the original in striking ways, and with a genuine jazz sensibility. - Kenny Mathieson - Scotsman
The music of Karlheinz Stockhausen is not often the preserve of jazz musicians, but there is a bit of family history behind this project from London-based pianist Bruno Heinen. Both of his parents performed with Stockhausen in the 1970s, and Bruno grew up with his music. Tierkreis (meaning signs of the Zodiac) is a tone-row suite in 12 parts originally devised for music boxes but open to any instrumentation, and the pianist opens and closes his jazz interpretation of the music with snippets of one of the original boxes, now in his possession. In between, he reinvents Stockhausen’s music in vivid and absorbing fashion with his fine sextet, which includes trumpeter Fulvio Sigurtà and saxophonists Tom Challenger and James Allsopp. Their warm, melodic and always intriguing explorations reconfigure the original in striking ways, and with a genuine jazz sensibility.
Avant-garde pieces with an austere beauty are interspersed between modern straight-ahead pieces, and it all sounds logical and cohesive. Just outstanding. Highly Recommended. - Dave Sumner, emusic
Fascinating session from Heinen, who along with bassist Di Biase and drummer Jon Scott, released one of 2012′s best, Dialogues Trio, Twinkle, Twinkle, an album based on reinterpretations of the classic lullaby. On this current session, they’re joined by Fulvio Sigurta (on trumpet, and a frequent mention in the Jazz Picks column), James Allsopp (bass clarinet, and also a frequent mention in the Jazz Picks column), and Tom Challenger on tenor sax, and they give a new interpretation, this time of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s composition Tierkreis, which is, itself, based on the signs of the zodiac. Avant-garde pieces with an austere beauty are interspersed between modern straight-ahead pieces, and it all sounds logical and cohesive. Just outstanding. Highly Recommended.
Heinen is rapidly becoming one of the UK jazz scene's most fascinating performers—second-guessing his next move might prove diverting, but he's almost certain to surprise once more. - Bruce Lindsay – All About Jazz
Karlheinz Stockhausen's compositions seldom make it into a jazz musician's list of jam session favorites. Pianist Bruno Heinen might just change that with his interpretation of Stockhausen's 1974-75 composition "Tierkreis," twelve pieces based on the signs of the zodiac and written originally for twelve musical boxes. The Bruno Heinen Sextet's debut album, Tierkreis, keeps some of the musical boxes and enlivens each piece with jazz instrumentation and sensibility.
The London-based Heinen, bassist Andrea Di Biase and drummer Jon Scott also form Dialogues Trio. That band's debut album, Twinkle Twinkle (Babel Label, 2012), featured a set of tunes inspired by the children's nursery rhyme. It may seem like a huge musical leap from the simplicity of a children's song to the work of one of the twentieth century's major composers but in many ways the jump is a short one—from one twinkling star to many, many twinkling stars.
Stockhausen gives musicians the freedom to interpret this work with any combination of instruments. There is one instruction, that any performance should begin and end with the tune for the star sign of that day. Heinen recorded this album in early April so Aries gets the honor of starting and finishing the album.
There's a close personal connection between Heinen and Stockhausen: the pianist's parents, cellist Ulrich Heinen and violinist Jacqueline Ross, worked with the composer in the '70s. What's more, Ulrich owns four of the original musical boxes and Bruno himself owns the Aquarius box. Perhaps "Tierkreis" was an even bigger part of Heinen's childhood than "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
Stockhausen and Heinen's interpretations of the twelve signs are intriguing, occasionally surprising and always delightful. The musical box adds a childlike quality to the music, James Allsopp's bass clarinet brings warmth and humor, Fulvio Sigurta's trumpet provides soul.
The first "Aries" is a delicately pretty piano and musical box duet: the second retains this delicacy but Di Biase's arco bass and Scott's drum accents darken the mood a little. "Taurus" is playful and cheering. "Gemini" is a late-night romance, with Tomas Challenger's smoky tenor sax to the fore. The languid and plaintive "Virgo" features a trio of trumpet, piano and musical box.
"Leo"—Stockhausen's own star sign—is energetic and even a little arrogant. The funky "Scorpio" darts and stings, like its namesake. A piano and musical box duet forms the surprisingly spooky "Aquarius" and so it goes on. Twelve star signs, thirteen beautifully realized performances, a work of great imagination and vision. Heinen is rapidly becoming one of the UK jazz scene's most fascinating performers—second-guessing his next move might prove diverting, but he's almost certain to surprise once more.
Pianist Bruno Heinen has quietly been building a reputation as one of the subtlest and most original voices on the contemporary scene for several years now. - Matthew Wright – London Jazz
Pianist Bruno Heinen has quietly been building a reputation as one of the subtlest and most original voices on the contemporary scene for several years now. His 2012 début album ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ (variations on the nursery rhyme) first suggested an interest in unusual source material, even by jazz standards; this is now confirmed by his recent second release.
‘Tierkreis’, Heinen’s own adaptation for jazz sextet of German experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 1974 piece of the same name for 12 music boxes, has, like ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, a tinkly timbre and celestial theme, but in all other respects its origins could hardly be more different.
Stockhausen died in 2007 as one of the most distinguished and influential members of the twentieth-century musical avant-garde. He has a forbidding reputation for rigour and adherence to pre-planned structure. It doesn’t, though, make it harsh or tuneless; much of his music sounds richly textured and harmonic, but the variable elements of it - pitch, intensity, duration, etc - have been serialised, or broken down into logical units.
Renowned for his development of electronic music, Stockhausen’s use of music boxes - with a similar man-made control, but ironically quaint sound, unlike the Doctor Who-ish quality of some 1970s electronic music - is typical of his originality of approach. And of Heinen’s, too.
With 12 music boxes, 12 signs of the Zodiac, and 12 notes in the chromatic scale, there’s plenty of scope for theoretical sleight of hand, though both the original version and Heinen’s sound fresh and unforced. Stockhausen’s piece is most often performed with solo piano, but his instructions allow for a wide range of instrumental accompaniment, and the character of the tracks varies widely.
Heinen has a distinguished band, containing some of the most promising players of his generation. With the music boxes and James Allsopp’s savoury bass clarinet added to a standard quartet line-up, he has a potently expressive assembly to deploy. Where there’s no music box, you’d be forgiven for overlooking Stockhausen altogether, and assuming it was a mainstream - though very accomplished - Shorteresque post-bop set-up.
Critics have not all enjoyed the sound of the music boxes, but they give the tonal palette an engagingly zodiacal quality. Combined with piano, in Aries, the sound is a little bloodless, but subtly other-worldly, the weightier piano sound guiding the fairy-light music box like an anxious parent.
Heinen’s a generous band-leader, and solos are pretty evenly shared by all members of the sextet, which results in both versatility and expertise. Taurus adds some almost-funky beef straight away, with Heinen’s vigorous piano driving a powerful dance around Jon Scott’s drums; Gemini relaxes around Tom Challenger’s perfectly-weighted, West-Coast-flavoured tenor sax phrasing, supported by Andrea Di Biase’s fat bass sound and, again, by Heinen’s piano, which stars and supports with expert delicacy throughout.
Cancer showcases Fulvio Sigurtà’s clean, muscular trumpet; he’s also the star on Leo, narrowly the stand-out track for me, which opens with a deliciously dissonant trumpet fanfare that manages to evoke Miles and the Middle Ages simultaneously, leading into one of Challenger’s most supple, writhing solos, then more polyglot trumpet, all laid over some very agile rhythm support.
* * * * Don't let the “S” word put you off, Heinen reworks Stockhausen's ideas comprehensively and this is a damn fine jazz album by a highly accomplished sextet. - Ian Mann – The Jazz Mann
London based pianist Bruno Heinen made a favourable critical impression with his 2012 album “Twinkle Twinkle” (also Babel Records), a set of intriguing variations on the tune of the nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. In the company of his Dialogues Trio, bassist Andrea Di Biase and drummer Jon Scott, plus guest Julian Siegel on reeds, Heinen cleverly fragmented and disguised the familiar wisp of melody to create a series of fresh compositions and group improvisations.
The album was very well received and Heinen’s follow up presents another themed album, this time a reworking of avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Tierkreis” (or “signs of the Zodiac”). Now I’ll readily admit that the sight of Stockhausen’s name on the cover did rather fill me with a sense of foreboding. Back in my teenage years in the 1970’s myself and some of my contemporaries were briefly obsessed with the “Kraut Rock” of Tangerine Dream, Faust, Neu!, Kraftwek, Can, et al, desperately trying to prove our (pseudo) intellectual credentials to the massed hordes of T.Rex and Slade fans. Into this scene one of the guys introduced a record by Stockhausen (don’t ask me what it actually was), the spiritual father of the whole Kraut Rock thing. Frankly it was a step too far - to virtually all our collective ears it was just horrible, totally unmusical and looking back I suspect that even the guy who brought it in didn’t really like it and was just trying to show off. At that time it was totally beyond my understanding and I’ve paid Stockhausen precious little regard ever since. The point of all this is don’t let the “S” word put you off, Heinen reworks Stockhausen’s ideas comprehensively and this is a damn fine jazz album by a highly accomplished sextet.
Heinen has a direct connection to Stockhausen through his parents, the cellist Ulrich Heinen and the violinist Jacqueline Ross. Both worked with Stockhausen in the 1970’s around the time of the writing of “Tierkreis”, originally a piece for twelve wind up music boxes, the twelve melodies being written on the “tone row” principle. Heinen’s father subsequently acquired four of the boxes and Heinen himself was recently given a fifth, the Aquarius box, which appears on this new recording.
“Tierkreis” is one of Stockhausen’s most popular works with the music box melodies subject to interpretation by other musical instruments and with Stockhausen happy for any combination of instruments to be used. Latterly the composer re-worked the piece for chamber, vocal and orchestral ensembles but Heinen’s version is believed to be the first for a jazz ensemble. Stockhausen’s brief instructions for the performance of the work were that the cycle should begin and end with the melody of the reigning star sign at the time of the performance. Heinen’s recording took place in April 2012 and the album thus begins and ends with “Aries”. A live performance of the piece by Heinen and his sextet at the Vortex in Dalston, London in September 2012 ( reviewed by Tim Owen on his Dalston Sound website http://www.dalstonsound.wordpress.com) thus began and ended with “Virgo”, evidence that “Tierkreis” is a living and breathing work of art.
This recording is Heinen’s second setting of the piece having also arranged it for a performance for cello, double bass and piano, the featured cellist being his father Ulrich, principal cellist of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The jazz sextet recording has been endorsed by Stockhausen’s son, the trumpeter and composer Markus Stockhausen and features Heinen on piano together with his Dialogues Trio colleagues Di Biase and Scott plus three horn players in the shape of Fulvio Sigurta (trumpet), Tom Challenger (tenor sax) and James Allsopp (bass clarinet). It is dedicated to Heinen’s former teacher, the late Pete Saberton, who died in 2012.
Heinen explains that certain movements feature the sextet improvising with the melodies of the music boxes whilst others involve the process of re-harmonising. In his review for Dalston Sound Tim Owen concluded that the resultant music seemed to owe as much to Wayne Shorter as Stockhausen, a fact that should encourage jazz listeners to seek out and persevere with this remarkable record.
Opener “Aires” begins with the sound of a music box being wound up followed by its other worldly tinklings. Heinen seems to listen to this and then extemporise on the melody at the piano, effectively duetting with the music box. The effect is strangely beguiling, almost hypnotic, as the music box slowly fades away leaving Heinen alone at the piano, his gently lyrical probings effectively becoming a kind of overture for the music to follow.
“Taurus” begins with the dance and chatter of Scott’s drums in jaunty simulation of the mechanical sounds of the music boxes, a sound that then extends into sparky rhythmic dialogue with Heinen and Di Biase with the pianist’s left hand particularly busy. It’s playful, pithy and highly rhythmic and offers proof to any doubters that Stockhausen can actually be fun!
The horns are introduced to the proceedings on “Gemini” which becomes a beautiful, smouldering jazz ballad featuring the smoky sound of Challenger’s tenor sax and the deliciously rounded tones of Di Biase’s bass.
“Cancer” shows Heinen moving further away from his source and edging ever closer to jazz on a lively piece that features the bright and eager trumpeting of Sigurta and the leader’s own piano on a lively piece that seems to combine Blue Note sensibilities with more contemporary ideas and grooves. The piece also includes a drum solo from the always inventive and colourful Scott.
The following “Leo” remains firmly in jazz territory albeit more freely structured and with a bustling bass/drums undertow. Solos come from Challenger on garrulous tenor and Sigurta on trumpet, gently exploratory at first and later more assertive, once more exhibiting that bright, incisive tone.
Sigurta’s extraordinary technical abilities are again in evidence on “Virgo”, a brooding duet with Heinen featuring darker tones and longer lines. In this exposed chamber like setting both trumpeter and pianist excel themselves with the sound of one of Stockhausen’s music boxes arriving mid tune to add a decidedly other worldly feel to the proceedings.
“Libra” also features a music box, this time it’s drummer Jon Scott who enters into “dialogue” with it as the album begins to establish a pattern of alternating set pieces for individual soloists with fully formed band pieces. The following “Scorpio” falls into the latter camp with Di Biase and Scott establishing an unexpected funk groove which is enhanced by percussive piano and punchy unison horns. The first solo comes from Allsopp on woody bass clarinet, making his strongest contribution so far and sounding almost Dolphy-esque. He’s followed by Sigurta on trumpet, delicately probing above a more freely structured backdrop, and then by Heinen himself before the funk groove returns by way of resolution.
The Dialogues Trio remain at the core of the recording and “Sagittarius” is a feature for the solo bass of Di Biase, his sound veering between deeply resonant pizzicato and alternately grainy and eerie arco. It’s both impressive and highly effective.
“Capricorn” is another “set piece” this time for the horns who intertwine delicately and sinuously both with themselves and the sometimes accompanying music box.
A third set piece features Heinen duetting with a music box, the pianist matching the mechanical timbres with ethereal sounds of his own, some derived from the piano’s innards. Like so many of the “set piece” vignettes that punctuate the album it’s a strangely compelling listening experience. Ditto “Pisces” for what sounds like double tracked bass clarinet.
As stipulated by Stockhausen the recording ends as it began with “Aries”, this time offering an alternative look at the theme with the music box supplemented by piano and bowed bass plus a splash of colour from the drums.
I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed this record. There are some fine individual moments but these are fully integrated into a whole that stays close to the spirit of Stockhausen yet owes much to the vision of Heinen. The solo pieces are all pithy and cogent and absorb the listener’s attention throughout and the ensemble performances are equally impressive. This project has obviously been a labour of love for Heinen and his attention to detail is crucial to the success of the album. However the playing of his colleagues is equally vital with each soloist making maximum use of the improvisatory space allotted to them, there are some excellent solos throughout the album. Heinen himself takes a relatively egoless approach, placing himself at the heart of the ensemble and soloing judiciously. To these ears it’s a more fully realised album than the earlier “Twinkle Twinkle” and one which confirms that Bruno Heinen is becoming an increasingly significant figure on the UK jazz scene.
When I read the notes I was suspicious - a work by Stockhausen in 12 parts based on the signs of the Zodiac filled me with trepidation and my first thought was, who can I palm this off on? Fortunately I didn't, and it turns out be quite a delightful disc! - Lance – Bebop Spoken Here
When I read the notes I was suspicious - a work by Stockhausen in 12 parts based on the signs of the Zodiac filled me with trepidation and my first thought was, who can I palm this off on? Fortunately I didn't, and it turns out be quite a delightful disc! The music boxes are incorporated sparingly and effectively, heads are melodic and the solos well within the bounds of comprehension.
Heinen is a sensitive player, classically trained but with a jazzman's ability to extract that extra something from the most unlikely source. Italian born trumpet player Surgatà, is now London based after having studied at Berklee in Boston and obtained a Masters at the Guildhall. His tone is full and at times melancholic. Very appealing sound.
Tenorist, Tom Challenger, is another Guildhall graduate. Warm, emotional, a player of considerable originality. Bass clarinettist, Allsop has occasional moments of insanity - Scorpio in particular - but otherwise he behaves himself drawing some rich melodic sounds from his chosen instrument. My own particular birth sign - Pisces - appeared to have Allsop playing a duet with himself (unless Challenger was playing a Bb clarinet?)
Most enjoyable - I may even start listening to Stockhausen himself.