by Ian Mann
May 21, 2020
A convincing amalgam of jazz & classical influences, with generous portions of folk, funk & prog stirred into an already heady mix. His most robust recording to date, and one of his most satisfying.
Bruno Heinen Trio
“Out of Doors”
(Heinen Records HRBHCD01 / HRBHLUP01)
Bruno Heinen – piano, Fender Rhodes, Andrea Di Biase – bass, Gene Calderazzo – drums
Pianist and composer Bruno Heinen has been a regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages.
The London based musician has established an impressive reputation in both the jazz and classical music fields, with his work frequently combining elements of the two genres.
“Out of Doors” sees Heinen introducing an exciting new trio featuring his long term musical associate Andrea Di Biase on bass, plus the dynamic Gene Calderazzo at the drums. This latest album marks the first release on the pianist’s own Heinen Records label and is available in CD, vinyl and digital formats.
Prior to establishing his own imprint Heinen enjoyed a long association with Babel Records that began with the release of the album “Twinkle, Twinkle” in 2012. This was a set of variations on the well known nursery rhyme theme recorded with his Dialogues Trio featuring Di Biase on bass and drummer Jon Scott, together with guest reed soloist Julian Siegel.
Next came “Tierkreis”, (2013) a superb re-interpretation of the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen in a contemporary jazz context that saw Heinen’s group expanded to a sextet with the addition of horn players Fulvio Sigurta (trumpet), Tom Challenger (tenor sax) and James Allsopp (clarinet).
The self explanatory “Postcard To Bill Evans” (2015) was an intimate duo set with the Danish guitarist Kristian Borring, while “Changing Of The Seasons” (2017) re-imagined Vivaldi in a collaboration with the Geneva based string ensemble Camerata Alma Viva.
Also in 2017 Heinen was part of the New Simplicity Trio featuring the Italian drummer and composer Antonio Fusco and the London based Danish bassist Henrik Jensen. These three collaborated on the album “Common Spaces”, also released on Babel.
In 2018 Heinen released the impressive solo piano recording “Mr Vertigo” (Babel), an album he described as being “an exploration of solo piano counterpoint”. This featured ten pieces that drew on Heinen’s broad range of influences including jazz, classical and even pop music.
2019 saw Heinen working with another new group, Kino Trio, a collaboration with the Italian musicians Michele Tacchi (bass) and Riccardo Chiaberta (drums). This was a highly democratic line up, united by a shared love of music and cinema, and with the composing credits shared around the group. The trio’s excellent début “Il Cielo Sopra Berlino” subsequently appeared on the Babel label.
2019 also saw the release of “Pretty Things”, a collection of solo piano performances of well known David Bowie songs. It’s the only previous Heinen release not to be reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. I haven’t actually heard it and suspect that it may be a digital release only. In any event it certainly sounds interesting, and is indicative of Heinen’s remarkably broad range of interests and influences.
Others with whom Heinen has worked include vocalists Reem Kelani, Emilia Martensson and Heidi Vogel, bassist Sebastiano Dessanay and saxophonists Jean Toussaint, Julian Arguelles and Rachael Cohen.
He also occupied the piano chair in a production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town” featuring the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle at the Barbican. By way of contrast he has also recorded with the hip hop artist DJ Vadim.
Also something of an academic Heinen studied classical piano at the Royal College of Music with Head of Keyboard Andrew Ball before moving on to complete a Masters Degree in Jazz at the Guildhall where his tutors included the celebrated jazz pianists John Taylor and Pete Saberton, both sadly no longer with us. Heinen dedicated the album “Mr. Vertigo” to their memories.
He recently completed a practice based AHRC funded PhD at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester “Counterpoint in Jazz Piano with specific relation to the solo work of Fred Hersch”.
Heinen is currently Professor of Jazz Piano at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music.
As a composer Heinen has written pieces for two pianos and percussion, jazz sextet, jazz big band and classical string ensemble. He has won prizes from the Musicians Benevolent Fund and the Countess of Munster Trust and in 2009 was nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Composers Award.
Amazingly “Out of Doors” represents the first time that Heinen has recorded under the name ‘Bruno Heinen Trio’. Although he has worked extensively with Di Biase, himself a bandleader in his own right as well as a prolific sideman on the London jazz scene, the recruitment of Calderazzo in the drum chair represents a highly exciting proposition.
New York born, but based in London since the 1990s, Calderazzo is arguably best known for his membership of the dynamic jazz-rock ensemble Partisans, co-led by Julian Siegel and guitarist Phil Robson. Calderazzo has become a hugely popular figure on the UK jazz scene and has worked prolifically, bringing a vital energy to all the groups he has been involved in. These have included Robson and Siegel’s solo projects as well as work with trumpeter Jay Phelps and, famously, US saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. Calderazzo has always seemed to enjoy a particularly good rapport with pianists, among them Jonathan Gee and Simon Purcell, and most notably Zoe Rahman, with whom he toured and recorded prolifically over a number of years.
Heinen’s classical origins have always informed his jazz work and “Out of Doors” is no exception. The album consists of a suite of eight movements, a series of original Heinen compositions based on the eight Hungarian folk melodies used by Bela Bartók in his 1920 work “8 Improvisations Op. 20”. Heinen also acknowledges the influences of piano works by both Gyorgy Ligeti and Maurice Ravel plus those of jazz composers Duke Ellington (specifically “Money Jungle”), Alice Coltrane (“Journey in Satchidananda) and Chick Corea (“Now He Sings, Now He Sobs”).
The album commences with “What Happens Now?”, building from Heinen’s opening three note solo piano motif to create something rich, dynamic and complex. The early stages of the piece see it developing gradually, with Calderazzo displaying a deft, painterly touch with the brushes. Since first emerging as a powerful, rock influenced player with Partisans Calderazzo has added subtlety and responsiveness to his CV, and can now be considered as one of the most creative drummers in contemporary jazz. That said he’s lost nothing of his essential dynamism and his contribution adds fire and passion to Heinen’s music, a music that has sometimes, on previous occasions, erred towards the overly academic. The presence of Calderazzo helps to prompt excellent performances from Heinen and Di Biase as the opener continues to build momentum, albeit with interesting diversions along the way, such as the delightfully melodic solo from the bassist that rounds off the piece after peak intensity has been achieved.
Calderazzo introduces “Devil’s Ditty” at the kit, deploying his toms like a cross between classical tympani and African talking drums. The dramatic intro leads to a series of quirky, increasingly dynamic trio exchanges with the close relationship between Heinen and Calderazzo always paramount. The drummer again starts with brushes, shadowing the pianist’s increasingly complex and percussive flights of fancy, the pair scampering around each other, anchored by Di Biase’s increasingly busy bass lines. There’s a joyousness about the piano and drum exchanges that reminds me of Calderazzo’s musical relationship with Zoe Rahman. The pair would always set up facing each other at gigs and their dynamic exchanges were always conducted in a spirit of great joie de vivre, each encouraging the other to take musical risks and each relishing the challenge, with Zoe invariably grinning from ear to ear. I can hear that spirit of ‘serious fun’ in this trio too.
The focus moves away from the Heinen / Calderazzo axis with the introduction to “Fool in the Grave”. Here Di Biase comes to the fore with a virtuoso exhibition of arco bass, his bowing rich and dark, and with something of the sinister quality implied by the title. He remains at the heart of the arrangement, even following the introduction of Heinen’s sombre piano and Calderazzo’s mallet rumbles, his dramatic, grainy bowing digging even deeper. Eventually the trio coalesce on a doomy closing passage, the Gothic intensity of which sometimes reminds me of Michael Wollny’s music, an observation that categorically be regarded as a compliment.
Di Biase is also heard with the bow on the introduction to “The Wave”, which begins as an increasingly energetic tattoo featuring the chug of bowed bass, military sounding drums and insistent, percussive piano motifs. The intensity gradually fades away as the music enters a more freely structured, impressionistic phase, before emerging as a driving hook with a seemingly unstoppable energy and momentum, shades of Wollny once more. The energy then dissipates again as Heinen adds melodic flourishes, before the piece concludes playfully with a series of teasing false endings.
Those who purchase this album on vinyl will be turning the disc over right now. Side B commences with “Look Before You Leap”, with Heinen switching to Rhodes on a piece that resembles both avant funk and prog rock. The leader’s electric piano excursions are augmented by another dynamic performance by Calderazzo who circumnavigates his kit with relish, prior to a more reflective closing section that maintains the trio’s penchant for dynamic contrasts.
“Past/Present”, with its monolithic piano chording and pounding rhythms, initially takes on anthemic quality, with Heinen adding sparkling flashes of right hand melodic embellishment. Subsequently the piece fragments into jagged, odd meter riffing, played with an overpowering intensity. If Van der Graaf Generator or King Crimson re-invented themselves as piano trios it might sound a little like this.
Something of that intensity extends into the introduction of the following “Mirror”, but this quickly dissipates with an extended passage of solo piano that combines a pastoral lyricism with a vague sense of unease. Overall the effect is strangely beautiful, with Di Biase and Calderazzo returning to provide brief embellishment towards the close, with Calderazzo displaying an exquisite touch at the cymbals.
The album concludes with Heinen returning to the Fender Rhodes for “Homecoming”, a second beguiling funk work out with Di Biase’s earthy bass motif providing the propulsion for Heinen and Calderazzo’s exchanges with the latter conjuring an impressively broad array of sounds from his kit. Heinen’s Rhodes shimmers and twinkles, riding the rhythmic ferment beneath, the only disappointment being that the piece seems to finish too early, with Heinen fading out mid solo, the final edit seemingly being extracted from a longer performance.
Heinen’s first trio album under the name ‘Bruno Heinen Trio’ is a triumph, a convincing amalgam of his jazz and classical influences, with generous portions of folk, funk and prog stirred into an already heady mix. It represents his most robust recording to date, and one of his most satisfying.
The addition of Calderazzo is key, the interchanges between the pianist and drummer fizzle and sparkle throughout, bringing real energy and dynamism to the music, allied to a genuine sense of fun. Humour isn’t always the first word that comes to mind when discussing Professor Heinen’s music, but there’s a welcome dose of it here, in part due to the presence of the irrepressible Calderazzo behind the kit.
Heinen was due to tour widely in support of this release and the proposed dates are listed below, although it’s likely that the majority of them will now no longer be able to take place.
Nevertheless the trio will officially launch the album on the evening of Friday May 22nd 2020 with a full livestream of the album on Facebook,@brunoheinentrio page, alongside images from the Twilight Zone, cut together by artist Eliot Rattle.
Scheduled live dates;
Sun 24 May
LONDON Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston N16 8AZ
Fri 5 June
LONDON Kings Place 90 York Way, London N1 9AG *ALBUM LAUNCH*
£14.50 / £9.50 https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/jazz/bruno-heinen-2/
Mon 8 June
ASHBURTON Arts Centre 15 West St, Newton Abbot TQ13 7DT
Tues 9 June
ST IVES Jazz Club, Gabriel StreetTR26 2LU
Wed 10 June
CARDIFF Flute and Tankard 4 Windsor Place, CF10 3BX
Sat 13 June
BRIGHTON Verdict 159 Edward St, Kemptown, BN2 0JB
Sun 14 June
SOUTHAMPTON Modern Jazz Club, Mango Basement, 5 Canute Rd, SO14 3FH
Wed 1 July
SHEFFIELD Lescar 303 Sharrow Vale Rd, Sharrow S11 8ZF
Thur 2 July
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Gosforth Civic Theatre Regent Farm Rd NE3 3HD
Fri 3 July
GLASGOW Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall St, G2 3JD
Fri 18 September
BIRMINGHAM Jazz, 1000 Trades, 16 Frederick St, B1 3HE
£ various, from £5-15 https://www.birminghamjazz.co.uk/gigs
Check at http://www.brunoheinen.com for further information and to purchase the “Out of Doors” album.
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