by Ian Mann
June 23, 2017
The simplicity of the compositional frameworks leaves plenty of room for some spirited improvising as the trio members explore the “common spaces” of the album title.
New Simplicity Trio
(Babel Records BBDV 16147)
New Simplicity Trio was formed in 2014 and features the Italian drummer Antonio Fusco together with the London based musicians Bruno Heinen (piano) and Henrik Jensen (double bass). Fusco and Heinen had previously worked together as a duo before deciding to add an additional instrumental voice to the equation.
Fusco has previously appeared on the Jazzmann web pages as a member of Jensen’s quartet Followed By Thirteen. He has played with a wide range of musicians in his homeland and has also participated in a number of international collaborations featuring musicians from a variety of countries. In 2014 Fusco’s sextet released the album “Suite For Motian” on the Italian label Auditorium Parco Della Musica Records. Fusco has recently joined the long running Alboran Trio, an Italian piano trio with an international reputation that has recorded for the prestigious ACT label.
Other well known musicians with whom he has worked include vocalist Reem Kelani, saxophonist Tim Berne, pianist Esben Tjalve and trumpeters Paolo Fresu and Andre Canniere.
Heinen has established himself as a significant presence on the London jazz scene and has enjoyed a lengthy association with the Babel record label for whom he has released four previous albums, “Twinkle, Twinkle”, a set of variations on the well known nursery rhyme theme, “Tierkreis”, a superb re-interpretation of Stockhausen in a contemporary jazz context, the self explanatory “Postcard To Bill Evans”, an intimate duo set with guitarist Kristian Borring, and finally “Changing Of The Seasons” which re-imagined Vivaldi in a collaboration with the Geneva based string ensemble Camerata Alma Viva. Hitherto the classically trained Heinen has largely been involved in re-inventing the music of others so it’s good to see him bringing some compositions of his own to the NST project.
Originally from Denmark Jensen came to London in 1997 and decided to stay on after completing his studies at the Musicians Institute and the Royal Academy of Music. He began on electric bass before deciding to concentrate on the acoustic, upright version. His main creative outlet is his quartet, Followed By Thirteen, with whom he has released two albums, the most recent of which, “Blackwater” (Jellymould Jazz, 2016) featured Fusco. He has also worked extensively with the Berlin based saxophonist Peter Ehwald with whom he released the duo album “Jensen / Ehwald” in 2012. The pair also worked with drummer Wolfgang Hohn as the North Trio, releasing the excellent album “Songs Of Trees” (33 Records) in 2008. Jensen has also worked with pianist Will Butterworth, flautist Mauricio Velasierra and saxophonists Pete Wareham and Martin Speake. He has also recorded and toured internationally with the Puppini Sisters.
NST take their name from the post-serial movement of German contemporary classical composers who rejected the legacy of Arnold Schoenberg and the complexities of serialism and other avant garde musics. Instead the new movement placed a premium on memorable melodies and harmonies as they sought to communicate with their audiences with greater clarity and immediacy.
Thus Fusco, Heinen and Jensen put the focus on melodic and harmonic simplicity, thus bucking the trend of most contemporary piano trios. The group is modelled on the classic Bill Evans / Scott La Faro / Paul Motian trio with each instrumentalist having an equal say in the direction and shaping of the music.
The programme on “Common Spaces” four compositions each from Fusco and Heinen, one from Jensen plus a Fusco arrangement of the Charles Mingus classic “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”.
The theorising behind the album title might suggest some kind of overly pretty ‘chamber jazz’ but the simplicity of the compositional frameworks leaves plenty of room for some spirited improvising as the trio members explore the “common spaces” of the album title.
Fusco’s bouncy opener “Groovy” certainly lives up to its name as it charges along at a Cowley-esque velocity with Heinen’s percussive pianism also tipping a hat in the direction of Thelonious Monk. The piece is punctuated by a lengthy solo drum excursion from Fusco before a brief final group flourish.
Jensen’s steady, sturdy bass grooves, teamed with Fusco’s brushes, drive his own “Riccardo’s Room”, which is understandably somewhat less boisterous than the opener. Here Heinen is given greater room to stretch out with his thoughtful explorations fully captivating the listener’s attention while emphasising his lightness of touch at the keyboard.
Fusco’s lengthy “Around Milan” begins with a lyrical passage of solo piano from Heinen and the air of romanticism continues even after the addition of bass and drums. Jensen’s bass solo is both richly melodic and deeply resonant as he demonstrates great dexterity allied to a rich, warm tone.
The music then begins to build momentum as Heinen stretches out once more with an expansive solo on a piece with a strong narrative arc that finally resolves itself by ending as quietly as it
Heinen dedicates his tune “Across The Pond” to the late trumpeter Richard Turner, a much missed musician on the British jazz scene (particularly in London) who died tragically and far too early.
Almost minimalist in construction Heinen’s gentle piano arpeggios are complemented by Fusco’s delicate percussion shadings and the warm glow of Jensen’s bass, particularly on the Dane’s melodic solo. It’s a tender, sophisticated trio performance and a fitting tribute to their fallen comrade.
“Full Flat” reveals another side to Heinen’s writing and playing. It’s a robustly playful piece that includes some spirited dialogue between the composer’s percussive, Monk-ish piano and Fusco’s colourful drumming as Jensen weaves his way in and out of any gaps and even finds space for a typically dexterous solo.
Jensen’s bass figure introduces Fusco’s “Orient Express” which fairly rattles along at first before a quieter extended central passage featuring Jensen’s agile bass extemporisations over Heinen’s piano vamp. Subsequently the piece builds up a head of steam again as it hurtles briefly again into vigorous Cowley-esque territory.
Fusco’s title track puts the emphasis on the “spaces” of the title with a delicate free form percussive intro, featuring a variety of interesting sounds, evolving into a spacious rumination featuring glacial piano and filigree percussive shadings. In time the piece opens up into the kind of abstract ballad that wouldn’t be out of place on an ECM album. Such are the premiums the trio place upon those “Common Spaces”.
At first Fusco’s arrangement of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” seems to maintain the fragile, lyrical mood with the woody sound of Jensen’s bass initially prominent. However Fusco and Heinen combine to give the music greater vigour and momentum and their subsequent exchanges fizzle with energy and an outright playfulness.
Heinen dedicates “Daydreamer” to the great Wayne Shorter and there’s something of Shorter’s questing but benign spirit in the composer’s leisurely piano explorations around the patter of Fusco’s drumming.
Finally Heinen contributes “The Seagull”, a playful, tango inflected dedication to his partner Noemi Caruso Heinen which incorporates a final bass solo from Jensen and some excellent trio interplay.
Despite its focus on ‘simplicity’ “Common Spaces” offers much to absorb, intrigue and excite the listener. The trio tackle a variety of jazz styles via a broad range of compositions. This may be “simple” music but it’s also highly intelligent and never, ever dull. The standard of musicianship is excellent throughout and it’s good to hear Heinen bringing so much of himself to the recording.
New Simplicity Trio launch “Common Spaces” at The Vortex in London on Saturday 24th June 2017 with further live dates as listed below;
25 June, 2017
NEW SIMPLICITY TRIO - Common Spaces release tour 2017
?ST LAWRENCE CHAPEL - Ashburton (UK)
blog comments powered by Disqus
27 June, 2017
NEW SIMPLICITY TRIO - Common Spaces release tour 2017
ST. IVES JAZZ CLUB- Cornwall (UK)