Monday, August 27, 2012
Reviewed by: Ian Mann
Riepler's writing and playing are refreshingly cliché free and “The Brave” represents a highly promising début .
(Jellymould Jazz JM-JJ007)
The Austrian guitarist and composer Hannes Riepler moved to London in 2006 and has since established himself as an important figure on the capital’s jazz scene. The London jazz community is now a truly international one and I first encountered Riepler’s playing on albums by American trumpeter Andre Canniere (“Forward Space”, Whirlwind Records 2011) and Danish pianist Esben Tjalve (“Red Kite”, F-ire Presents 2012). The guitarist makes a strong contribution to each of these excellent recordings, both of which are reviewed elsewhere on this site.
Riepler’s début as a leader appears on the Huddersfield based Jellymould label and features an all star cast of leading young British jazz musicians with Kit Downes on piano, Tom Challenger on tenor sax, Ryan Trebilcock on double bass and Jon Scott at the drums. Recorded in 2010 but released in June 2012 the album features eight original Riepler compositions and, like so many recent recordings, is dedicated to the memory of the much missed young trumpeter and composer Richard Turner. Riepler also dedicates the album to his late father Josef Riepler.
On the opening title track Riepler adopts an orthodox jazz guitar sound (writing in The Guardian John Fordham suggested Grant Green as an influence) but his writing is thoroughly contemporary. “The Brave” is full of mercurial, tightly meshed ensemble playing with Riepler, Downes and Challenger all making sparkling contributions as soloists. Trebilcock and Scott constitute a flexible and intelligent rhythm team, always tasteful and adaptable and capable of responding to whatever the soloists throw at them.
“Up” is less propulsive than its title might suggest. Taken at mid pace it’s nevertheless an intriguing piece of writing that features the warm tone of Challenger’s tenor, Downes’ effortlessly flowing piano (he’s in characteristically inspired form throughout the album) and the rounded tones of the leader’s guitar. There’s an urban feel to this and also to the following “Now Do It” that suggests that Riepler has been influenced by the New York Downtown scene and by contemporary guitarists such as Kurt Rosenwinkel. “Now Do It” also sees Challenger adopting a harder edged tone alongside Riepler’s guitar.
As implied by the title “Summer Song” is more relaxed, almost languid, and features soloists Riepler, Challenger and Downes at their most lyrical. Trebilcock and Scott are appropriately understated but supply subtly colourful propulsion throughout.
“The Insomniac” develops from Downes’ delicate solo piano introduction to embrace a later urgency. It’s as if the protagonist of the title, has awakened slowly, the piano representing the first wakeful thoughts as the insomniac lies awake, the only sentient being in the depths of the night,in a world otherwise asleep. Later he hauls himself out of bed and throws himself into urgent activity, as depicted by the lively solos of Downes and Riepler and the hard swinging rhythms of Trebilcock and Scott. The drummer also enjoys something of a feature in the closing stages of the tune.
“Down Only” re-establishes a crepescular mood on a delicately brooding ballad that features the woody sound of Trebilcock’s double bass alongside lyrical solos from Downes and Riepler.
The “NY Downtown” sound is back for the bustling, urgent “Pee Wee Killa Instinct” ( a dedication to Mr. Ellis perhaps?) with features for Riepler’s nimble guitar, Challenger’s r’n'b tinged tenor and the consistently excellent Scott.
Finally Riepler gives a nod to his homeland with “Tyrol, Tyrol” (he’s from Innsbruck), a piece that combines folk melody with the sound of John Coltrane. Challenger impresses with his big toned tenor and there’s an intelligent, slow burning solo from Riepler followed by a dazzling contribution from an exuberant Downes.
“The Brave” is a well paced, intelligently programmed album that impresses with both the quality of Riepler’s writing and the exemplary playing by each member of the quintet. Downes shines brilliantly when in the spotlight but there’s no doubting that this is Riepler’s record. The leader’s writing and playing are refreshingly cliché free and “The Brave” represents a highly promising début .
Riepler runs the popular weekly Tuesday night jam sessions at Charlie Wright’s International Bar in Hoxton, London. During the 2012 London Jazz Festival he will be making a special concert appearance with his quartet (Riepler, Challenger, Trebilcock, Scott) as part of a double bill with the Andre Canniere Group (November 13th 2012, 8.30 pm-details from Andre Canniere’s website http://www.andrecanniere.com) .
See also http://www.hannesriepler.co.uk
JAZZ MANN FEATURES
The sun shines on the final day of an excellent festival.
Ian Mann soaks up the vibes at Cheltenham Jazz Festival.