It is not every pianist who is able to risk the formidable challenge of making an inward journey without the musical record of that sojourn sounding ponderous and heavy-going. The concentration and imagination, accuracy and power of expression, musicianship and plain technical prowess needed to pull it off successfully is beyond the reach of most. But David Helbock is no ordinary pianist He has the flexible technique, large portfolio of nuance, and is a deep enough thinker to emerge from plumbing the depths of heart and mind without sounding over-effortful not the least because he is also possessed of a wry wit and subversive charm.
Into The Mystic, is not only a remarkable result of spiritual exercise, but a very characterful and musically engaging programme. Over fourteen pieces Helbock weaves the narrative of the music’s emotional core in his metaphysical exegesis through the melodic warp of the Star Wars theme, which, in turn is the glue that binds his own musical abstractions – the mystical ‘The Soul’, shimmering with proto-Impressionistic colour and nuance; ‘Spiritual Monk’, a meditation on the High-Priest of ‘Outness’ himself, Thelonious Monk; the dreamy ‘Eros’, a ballad dedicated to the Greek goddess of love; the beautifully-voiced ‘Mother Earth’; the hymn-like ‘Into The Mystic’; the delicate ‘Masks’ and an anthemic-sounding ‘The World Needs More Heroes’, which ends the set.
Despite the vivid imagery tempi often approach stasis, a starkly ascetic keyboard style that occasionally lapses into monody and spiritual dimension more suggested that explicit. Not surprisingly David Helbock’s playing is agile, tonally rich, spiky where necessary and brilliant too – especially so on Thad Jones’ iconic piece ‘A Child Is Born’. Moreover he possesses the pianistic finesse, myriad sensitivities and, above all,, the requisite imagination to make Into The Mystic a gripping drama and a cathartic spiritual journey. Helbock’s own compositions show him to be a more thoughtful composer that he has ever been. And Raphael Peruschl, who wrote ‘Louverture’ is no slouch with the pen, and a virtuosic genius on the bass ukulele as well. It also bears mention that this trio would not swing as hard as it does if not for the drumming of Reinhold Schmölzer either.
David Helbock is a rarity among pianists, capable of encompassing the varied facets of the history of the instrument as well as a vast history of its literature – from Beethoven to Thelonious Monk. His performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony ‘2nd Movement’ with which the recording opens, is compelling and his has also shows that he has clearly embraced the art of Jazz with ease, empathy and authority. This is clear from the breadth of this richly atmospheric music on this disc, an experience that is not to be missed.
Track List: Beethoven #7, 2nd Movement; The Soul; Spiritual Monk; Exodus To Star Wars I; Louverture; Eros; Exodus To Star Wars II; Mother Earth; Into The Mystic; Exodus To Star Wars III; A Child Is Born; Masks; Star Wars Theme; The World Needs More Heroes.
Personnel: David Helbock: piano; Raphael Preuschl: bass ukulele; Reinhold Schmölzer: drums.