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Bruno Heinen Sextet: Tierkreis

Bruce Lindsay By

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Bruno Heinen Sextet: Tierkreis Karlheinz Stockhausen's compositions seldom make it into a jazz musician's list of jam session favorites. Pianist Bruno Heinen might just change that with his interpretation of Stockhausen's 1974-75 composition "Tierkreis," twelve pieces based on the signs of the zodiac and written originally for twelve musical boxes. The Bruno Heinen Sextet's debut album, Tierkreis, keeps some of the musical boxes and enlivens each piece with jazz instrumentation and sensibility.

The London-based Heinen, bassist Andrea Di Biase and drummer Jon Scott also form Dialogues Trio. That band's debut album, Twinkle Twinkle (Babel Label, 2012), featured a set of tunes inspired by the children's nursery rhyme. It may seem like a huge musical leap from the simplicity of a children's song to the work of one of the twentieth century's major composers but in many ways the jump is a short one—from one twinkling star to many, many twinkling stars.

Stockhausen gives musicians the freedom to interpret this work with any combination of instruments. There is one instruction, that any performance should begin and end with the tune for the star sign of that day. Heinen recorded this album in early April so Aries gets the honor of starting and finishing the album.

There's a close personal connection between Heinen and Stockhausen: the pianist's parents, cellist Ulrich Heinen and violinist Jacqueline Ross, worked with the composer in the '70s. What's more, Ulrich owns four of the original musical boxes and Bruno himself owns the Aquarius box. Perhaps "Tierkreis" was an even bigger part of Heinen's childhood than "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

Stockhausen and Heinen's interpretations of the twelve signs are intriguing, occasionally surprising and always delightful. The musical box adds a childlike quality to the music, James Allsopp's bass clarinet brings warmth and humor, Fulvio Sigurta's trumpet provides soul.

The first "Aries" is a delicately pretty piano and musical box duet: the second retains this delicacy but Di Biase's arco bass and Scott's drum accents darken the mood a little. "Taurus" is playful and cheering. "Gemini" is a late-night romance, with Tomas Challenger's smoky tenor sax to the fore. The languid and plaintive "Virgo" features a trio of trumpet, piano and musical box.

"Leo"—Stockhausen's own star sign—is energetic and even a little arrogant. The funky "Scorpio" darts and stings, like its namesake. A piano and musical box duet forms the surprisingly spooky "Aquarius" and so it goes on. Twelve star signs, thirteen beautifully realized performances, a work of great imagination and vision. Heinen is rapidly becoming one of the UK jazz scene's most fascinating performers—second-guessing his next move might prove diverting, but he's almost certain to surprise once more.

Track Listing: Aries; Taurus; Gemini; Cancer; Leo; Virgo; Libra; Scorpio; Sagittarius; Capricorn; Aquarius; Pisces; Aries.

Personnel: Bruno Heinen: piano, musical box; Fulvio Sigurta: trumpet; James Allsopp: bass clarinet; Tom Challenger: tenor saxophone; Andrea Di Biase: bass; Jon Scott: drums.

Title: Tierkreis | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Babel Label


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