Florian Hoefner: Songs Without Words (2012)
A youthful quartet led by German pianist Florian Hoefner offers a modern jazz effort that is by no means a game-changer, yet boasts a diverse track mix. Now residing in New York, Hoefner is a two-time recipient of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. Featuring his original compositions, the quartet on Songs Without Words displays verve while executing delicate sound mosaics, pumping Latin beats and fluidly crafted unison choruses.
The pianist's intricately articulated phrasings on the pensive ballad "Sometimes" projects a multipart story in concert with Mike Ruby's spirited sax lines. Other pieces are driven by brawny dialogues and forceful grooves, but "Ivory" lacks a memorable theme, and is framed on linear progressions and a dash of soul, although Hoefner's investigative voicings help elevate the piece out of anonymity. However, they convey more depth on "Ankunft," where manifold choruses and pulsating flows generate intensifying rhythmic passages.
The band finalizes the outing with the largely uneventful "Behind the Sun," constructed on a slow-moving rock gait, and highlighted by Ruby's bluesy inflections. Underscored with a bit of pop to consummate a no-frills thematic foray, the composition is embellished by Hoefner's trickling, upper-register single-note clusters layered over the top.
The quartet exhibits a good deal of promise, but when viewed within the vast catalogue of nascent post-bop or modern mainstream units saturating the marketplace, there needs to be a mark of distinction. Technically proficient, Hoefner and associates spark interest with cunning developments that unfortunately don't compensate for some of the routine song forms and movements.
Track Listing: Cross Hill; Uncertain Times; Sometimes; Song of the Past; Distraction; Ivory; Ankunft; Behind the Sun.
Personnel: Mike Ruby: tenor and soprano saxophone; Florian Hoefner: piano; Sam anning: bass; Peter Kronreif: drums.