From Berlin to Newfoundland via New York City
A Maritime Solo Piano Journey
It is a long way culturally from New York City to Newfoundland, but the transition has proved creatively invaluable to Florian Hoefner. The acclaimed German-born jazz pianist/composer made the move from Manhattan to St. John’s three years ago, and the impact on his work is indisputable.
Florian’s new album, Coldwater Stories, is tangible proof of just that. Set for release on Origin Records on September 15th, it is an eloquent and adventurous musical tribute to his new-found homeland.
Hoefner explains in the liner notes that the album is “inspired by the maritime landscape around the island of Newfoundland both for content and concept. Many of the pieces on this album consist of one or more composed islands, surrounded by a sea of open space that is left to be filled with improvisation.”
“My goal with this album was to explore the intersection between composition and improvisation – where one meets the other. No genre would be better suited for this than solo piano. While improvisation in an ensemble context often follows a given chord progression, playing solo allows me to improvise entire harmonic progressions or to completely reinvent the form of a piece during any given performance.”
Coldwater Stories marks Hoefner’s recording debut as a solo pianist. His first foray into playing solo concerts was something of a happy accident, he recalls. “In 2014, I was supposed to play a concert with my quartet at the Blues Alley Piano Festival in Washington, DC. The organiser told me that it would now be a solo piano festival. ‘Are you up for that?’ I dove into it, and received an affirming response. I quickly began enjoying playing solo with all the freedom available.”
Armed with the compelling compositions he created in St. John’s, Hoefner returned to Germany to record Coldwater Stories in the best possible locale. “I knew the Sendesaal in Bremen from playing there a couple of times since 2009. It is an amazing hall, built for the city’s radio station in the 1950s. It is completely insulated from the outside, resting on truck suspensions. This means there is no outside sound or vibration coming in. The acoustics are so good that they make you feel comfortable on the instrument immediately, and this is so important for solo piano.”
Hoefner used the hall’s Steinway D Concert Grand, and the warm clarity of that instrument’s sound is captured pristinely on the album. The two-day recording session included an evening concert Hoefner performed in front of an audience, and four live tracks are included on Coldwater Stories.
The results vividly demonstrate the benefits of an adventurous approach. “The way my compositions are set up they give me ultimate freedom. Most of the time there is no set form that I can hold on to which encourages the spontaneous creation and development of new material and ideas.” Hoefner explains. “This freedom allows me to start doing things I didn’t plan and I get into moments where I’m not in complete control of what is happening and it is just flowing out of me. Herbie Hancock once said ‘the hip notes are outside the comfort zone.’ By having these free elements I was putting myself outside that zone.”
Stylistically, Coldwater Stories is not an orthodox jazz album, drawing on many other influences, including classical music. “I really tried to think outside of genre constrictions when I was coming up with the music,” explains Hoefner. “I do study a lot of classical music, so the listener may well hear a good deal of Debussy and perhaps Ravel and Scriabin in there.”
The compositions on the album take the listener on a musical journey, from the serene and contemplative to the dramatic. This sometimes occurs within a single piece, as on the compelling dynamic flow (or floe) of “Iceberg 2.”
Equally satisfying is “Green Gardens,” a largely improvised piece that is inspired by a hiking trip in the famed Gros Morne National Park. The rhythmically jaunty composition has an uplifting feel, vividly mirroring the image fuelling it.
Another highlight on an album devoid of lowlights is “The Way of Water,” where Hoefner’s gently insistent and at times percussive playing is suggestive of a waterfall cascading down through an opening in the forest.
Florian Hoefner has an extensive and impressive discography to his credit. As a bandleader, he has released three earlier jazz albums, with his quartet, the Florian Hoefner Group. His 2016 release Luminosity features star saxophonist Seamus Blake, and has received rave reviews around the globe including Downbeat (US), the Ottawa Citizen (CA), Jazz Journal (UK) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (GER). He has also been involved in four acclaimed recordings by the German-based jazz collective Subtone, and has performed and recorded with noted guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel on Roman Ott’s album Inner Shape.
An in-demand performer on the international jazz circuit, Hoefner has played on four continents, including such far-flung festivals as Jazz in Situ (Ecuador) and the ACACIA Jazz Festival in Ethiopia. Hofner’s awards to date include the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award (twice), the Tremplin Jazz d’Avignon International Jazz Competition Audience and Jury Award, and, in 2015, the prestigious Stingray Rising Star Award at the Montréal Jazz Festival for his original composition Newfound Jig. He currently serves as adjunct professor for Jazz at Memorial University in St. John’s.
Hoefner will tour Eastern Canada in support of Coldwater Stories in late September with dates in Ottawa, Montréal, Toronto and Hamilton. In October, he will take his quartet on a European tour with concerts in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland, presenting the music from Luminosity as well as quartet renditions of the Coldwater Stories repertoire.
Florian Hoefner Group – Coldwater Stories, Origin Records
Release Date: September 15th, 2017
Order no.: Origin 82740
Digital Album Download: http://goo.gl/D8hPDz
Photo Download: http://goo.gl/nph8v6
For more information, visit Florian Hoefner online at www.florian-hoefner.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/florianhmusic Twitter: @FlorianHJazz