Jazz pi­anist gets in­spired af­ter a move to The Rock

New­found­land plays an in­flu­en­tial role on jazz pi­anist Flo­rian Hoefner’s lat­est record

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - PETER HUM

Born and raised in Ger­many and ed­u­cated in New York, jazz pi­anist Flo­rian Hoefner has made a solo record in­spired by the place he now calls home — New­found­land.

Hoefner, who is in his mid-30s, left New York for St. John’s in 2014, when his wife, Cana­dian clar­inetist Chris­tine Carter, was hired as a pro­fes­sor at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity. Rather than pine for the jazz hub of the world, the pi­anist who came from away has made an al­bum called Cold­wa­ter Sto­ries, sup­ported by the New­found­land and Labrador Arts Coun­cil, with tracks bear­ing ti­tles such as the Great Auk, Ice­berg 1 and With The North At­lantic.

Hoefner, who will play mu­sic from his new al­bum on Wed­nes­day at noon at South­min­ster United Church in the Glebe, dis­cusses how re­lo­cat­ing to The Rock has in­spired him.

Q Af­ter mak­ing sev­eral quar­tet records, what ap­pealed to you about mak­ing a solo pi­ano al­bum? A

It has been on my mind for a num­ber of years to re­lease a solo al­bum. Ever since I started play­ing solo con­certs in early 2014 I have rel­ished the chal­lenge and free­dom that comes with the genre. I love hav­ing au­ton­omy in every as­pect of the per­for­mance and be­ing able to change the rhythm, har­mony or form of the piece spon­ta­neously. There is also some­thing in­trigu­ing about the idea to just show up by your­self with­out any equip­ment and start play­ing on an acous­tic in­stru­ment. It’s just so sim­ple, pure and hon­est. I wanted to cap­ture this on CD.

While I was in New York, things were al­ways too busy to get around to do it, Solo pi­ano needs a lot of fo­cus, re­flec­tion and prepa­ra­tion. The move to St. John’s in 2014 opened up the nec­es­sary space to tackle the project.

Q The orig­i­nal ma­te­rial on the al­bum is in­spired by New­found­land, where you now live. Why? A

In a way, the en­vi­ron­ment around me al­ways in­flu­ences me. The ex­pe­ri­ences I take in on a daily ba­sis of­ten make their way into my com­po­si­tions. It’s hard to ex­plain how it works, but is of­ten more about an at­mo­sphere than con­crete ma­te­rial. In that re­gard you could say that New­found­land chose to in­spire me and not the other way round.

I would say though that this time the in­spi­ra­tion is a lit­tle more spe­cific and de­lib­er­ate in that some of the pieces fol­low a pre­con­ceived nar­ra­tive re­lated to the ti­tle. I guess in clas­si­cal terms you would call this pro­gram­matic. A good ex­am­ple is Mi­gra­tion, the sec­ond track on the record. Watch­ing wildlife is one of my favourite things to do here, and not far from St. John’s you can visit one of the largest Puf­fin colonies in North Amer­ica on an is­land just off the coast. These lit­tle colour­ful seabirds are some­what clumsy on land and also not the best flyers, but once they hit the wa­ter and dive un­der they be­come el­e­gant and ef­fec­tive hun­ters. This re­mark­able tran­si­tion is the blue­print for Mi­gra­tion and I’m try­ing to cap­ture the two con­trast­ing char­ac­ters and their evo­lu­tion in the mu­sic.

Q Leav­ing New­found­land, tell me about the other in­flu­ences on your mu­sic. A

The mu­sic on this new al­bum is pretty free, with­out a lot of com­posed ma­te­rial. All I have writ­ten down are three or four pages of sketches in a script book. It took me a while to fig­ure out how to pre­pare for an al­bum like this.

What I ended up do­ing was play­ing through a lot of clas­si­cal mu­sic to ex­plore what is pos­si­ble on the in­stru­ment, es­pe­cially in terms of tex­tures. My goal was to get new ideas on how to use my two hands be­yond a typ­i­cal melody and ac­com­pa­ni­ment set­ting. I played a lot of Brahms, De­bussy, Scri­abin and Chopin, the lat­ter more for tech­ni­cal rea­sons, and these com­posers cer­tainly helped shape this new al­bum. I also lis­tened to many solo pi­ano records by other jazz pi­anists — Craig Taborn, Aaron Parks, Keith Jar­rett, Fred Her­sch and some of Brad Mehldau’s ear­lier solo works — and I would say that all of them had an im­pact on the record.

Q Tell me more about how you gen­er­ate an hour’s worth of mu­sic from a few pages of sketches. A

One of the big ad­van­tages of a solo per­for­mance is that you don’t have to fol­low a form or sched­ule and are able to change any as­pect of the mu­sic on the spot. To al­low this to hap­pen, and even en­cour­age it, I de­cided to avoid fixed cho­rus forms like you would find in a jazz stan­dard.

In­stead, I com­posed lit­tle snip­pets — some short melodies, chord pro­gres­sions or vamps — enough to give a piece a cer­tain vibe and make it rec­og­niz­able, but with­out cre­at­ing a re­peat­able form. Dur­ing the per­for­mance, I in­sert these short seg­ments in dif­fer­ent places and con­nect them with free im­pro­vi­sa­tions. The chal­lenge is to make the switches be­tween com­po­si­tion and im­pro­vi­sa­tion as seam­less as pos­si­ble and to con­tinue the sto­ry­line of the piece.

Q Next month you’ll tour with your quar­tet in Ger­many, Poland and be­yond. How does it feel now to be back in Europe af­ter liv­ing in New York and then New­found­land? Where is home for you? A

It is al­ways great to be back in Europe. There is a cer­tain fa­mil­iar­ity from hav­ing lived there for 26 years that will never go away. I love the land, the peo­ple and the food, and I’m re­ally glad that I get to visit a cou­ple of times each year.

I now feel that home is in St. John’s, N.L., where my fam­ily is. But I would say that ev­ery­where I have lived still feels a lit­tle bit like home when I re­turn there. It’s nice to have these fa­mil­iar pock­ets in the world to come back to. phum@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/pe­ter­hum ot­tawac­i­t­i­zen.com/jazzblog

Flo­rian Hoefner left New York for St. John’s, N.L., in 2014, when his wife was hired at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.