There is a very good chance, judging by recordings before this one with Subtone that the German-born, Canadian pianist Florian Hoefner has already won a legion of fans among the cognoscenti in Europe. His deeply meditative manner of playing a concert grand owes much to the European tradition. Moreover, his method of composition and performance suggests the kind of miniatures and emotive playing that would certainly transport listeners to a recital of Chopin’s music. Mr Hoefner’s touch is magnificent,; soft and mysterious and his melodic and harmonic conception combined with his highly expressive pianism suggests, in the words of Heinrich Heine, “the poetry of emotion”.
With Moose Blues, and with Subtone a group of fellow musicians from Europe he is here, however, most attentive to an impulse that seems to have drawn him to music from across the big pond – the African-American idiom of Jazz with its swing and – now fairly common – reliance as much on composition as improvisation. Compositions retain their doffing of the proverbial hat to European Impressionism – and Mr Hoefner’s in particular to Expressionism . Their cryptic titles are a dead giveaway. The kind of visionary dreaminess has been subsumed somewhat by swirling visions of images frozen in time which are, at the same time, driven by a motoring rhythm that relies quite heavily on swing.
The players are superb throughout. Each is a virtuoso on his instrument (or instruments, as is the case with Matt Dürrschnabel who wields his clarinet and flute with magical touch). Soli are equally shared and this makes for vivid stories and paintings that thrive on mystery (“Upside Up”), mysticism (“Gnoshtrae”) and, well, a blues as well (“Moose Blues”). Throughout horn player Magnus Schriefl and Mr Dürrschnabel are magnificent and their exploitation of contrapuntal writing is superb. Mr Hoefner is, as usual magical, his touch defined by sophisticated pianism always tempered by flights that ring in the changes in mood and structure and tempo. Matthias Pichler and Peter Gall keep everything anchored in rippling, rock-solid melodic and percussive grooves while the soloists fly out to wherever the ideas take them. All of this makes for a constantly interesting programme.
This is a superb music characterised by a considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm, of composition and improvisation, of exploration, individuality and tradition, all of which is impressively maintained throughout the hour-long and breathtakingly beautiful performance.
Track list – 1: Orbit; 2: Flatrock; 3: E-Nuts; 4: Evif; 5: Alphabet City; 6: Gnoshtrae; 7: Upside Up; 8: Road Trip; 9: Rubulad; 10: Lament; 11: Moose Blues
Personnel – Magnus Schriefl: trumpet and flugelhorn; Malte Dürrschnabel: tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute; Florian Hoefner: piano; Matthias Pichler: bass; Peter Gall: drums
Released – 2018
Label – Laika Records
Runtime – 1:01:49