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Florian Hoefner Trio: First Spring

Dan McClenaghan By

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Many piano trios reach back to past masters for inspiration, playing in the style of Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson. Others craft their sounds under the influence of contemporary players: Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, Ahmad Jamal. On the other hand, the occasional piano trio comes down the road rolling its own idiosyncratic way. Pianist Florian Hoefner is one of the latter group, with his immersion in "the ethos of traditional songs and the high lonesome sound of Bluegrass," on his first trio outing, First Spring.

Newfoundland-based pianist Hoefner has offered up a string of terrific albums on the Origin Records / OA2 Records imprint. He is comfortable and skilled in the quartet format—a saxophone and a rhythm section. He's also released a fine solo piano disc, Cold Water (Origin Records, 2017). None of these come off of a Bluegrass influence, which makes First spring a beautiful and distinctive surprise.

The disc opens with that high lonesome sound right from the start, on "Hound's Tune," featuring an arco intro by the trio's bassist, Andrew Downing. The composition was penned by the late Newfoundland fiddler Rufus Guinchard. Downing bows pure "dance reel" beauty. Then the trio takes the theme and runs. Downing, who released the "Best of The Year" list album Otterville (Self Produced, 2016), a laid-back country music, small town Ontario, Canada listening experience, is critical to the success of First Spring.

Inspired by the music Sam Amidon, Levon Helm and Chris Thile, Hoefner transforms those Americana, folk and country sounds into piano trio fodder. Taken from Helm's Dirt Farmer (Vanguard Records, 2007), "Calvary" features the trio painting a dark, expansive landscape, taking a simple tune and imbuing it with somber grandeur via exquisite musicianship and vision. The Hoefner-penned title tune steps into lighter territory, a creating a subtly soaring atmosphere that sounds as if it could fit into an orchestral format. "Short Life" is an original composition from folk musician Sam Amidon, with Dunning's bowed bass playing the part of Amidon's fiddle with a gorgeous finesse.

First Spring, a jazz-infused folk/country piano trio outing, stands out in the piano trio field in 2019.

Track Listing: Hound's Tune; Calvary; First Spring; Maid On The Shore; Winter In June; Loosin Yelav; Short Life; Solstice; Rain And Snow.

Personnel: Florian Hoefner: piano; Andrew Downing: bass; Nick Fraser: drums.

Title: First Spring | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Alma Records

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