Recording of the Week: Florian Hoefner, Luminosity

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Florian Heofner Group: Luminosity

Seamus Blake, saxophones

Florian Hoefner, piano

Sam Anning, bass

Peter Kronreif, drums

Luminosity (release date January 15), is the third album from German jazz pianist Hoefner. This is finely made jazz that sits right in the pocket of the mainstream of contemporary style—a prevalent minor key feel, driving rhythms with more than a little rock feel—that is the long tail of Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet. The sound is familiar, but this is not a criticism, because it’s also involving.

The story behind Hoefner’s third release is that, having decamped from New York City to St. Johns, Newfoundland, he wrote the material in isolation. It is a long and winding road from circumstances to the realization of a creative idea, but there is a palpable, hard focus to the album as a whole, like a steel cylinder around which all the music revolves. Hoefner is not breaking new ground, but carving out new personal territory, and that gravity comes through in the music-making, which has the cumulative satisfaction of passing through a weighty experience and coming out refreshed.

Hoefner is a good player, although his voice is hard to separate from that of numerous peers playing in the post-Jarrett, post-Mehldau landscape. The quartet is sharp, energetic, and intelligent. As a whole, the album has a slightly alllusive quality—which is likely a matter of Heofner’s own interior landscape—that makes it hard to pin down but does draw me back to it. *Luminosity* also has the distinct benefit of saxophonist Seamus Blake, who’s full sound, expressive force, and unerring improvisational logic make every recording he appears on worth a listen. That this almost sounds like his date is a measure of how well he channels the leader’s concepts and values.


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I have been listening to David Bowie’s Blackstar since it was released on Friday, and that compounded the shock and dismay I felt Monday morning at waking up to see notices of his death. Inevitably, this colors all the listening to follow. There is great music-making on the record, stuff that I’ve never encountered before. The song-craft and style are tremendously sophisticated, art music in a roughly popular idiom that makes no concessions to either popular taste or received wisdom about art. The lyrics are death-haunted, which makes abrading sense when one realizes this is the last work of a dying man, but not despairing—they are puzzled, and accepting.

This is identifiably late style, as was *The Next Day*. And as more information comes in, it turns out the Bowie organized the album, videos, and release precisely around his expected death, a farewell to the world that is his encouragement for us to celebrate his work, not mourn. I find this intensely, indescribably moving. Bowie was a great artist and an indispensable figure of our time, someone who would not have been possible without the existence of mass, popular culture, someone who was constantly transcending his context, no more so than with this valedictory work. Death as an undemonstrative public performance, something to give to others while drawing attention away from death itself.

This is how I like to remember him:


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.