About a year and a half ago, German-born pianist/composer Florian Hoefner did what few up-and-coming jazz musicians would dare to do, and that was to pull out of the bustling scene of New Your City to relocate to a far-away place that shared an ocean but little else with his former home. But from the relative solitude of St. John's, Newfoundland, Hoefner found the right environment to raise his game, and for his third album Luminosity (released January 16, 2016 by Origin Records), Hoefner constructed a set of pieces that more than ever for him, exemplifies the dynamism of modern jazz in the 21st century Big Apple.
The secret sauce to Luminosity lies in the compositions - all Hoefner originals - that mine Hoefner's familiarity with his rhythm section: he's performed with bassist Sam Anning and drummer Peter Kronreif for scores of gigs going back to 2010, and he wrote those songs with them and saxophonist Seamus Blake firmly in mind. Accordingly, Luminosity puts everyone in their best light, leader included.
These extended forms keep you engaged by not giving away the plot too quickly; "In Circles" elucidates that with its twenty-four beat cycle and a dancing long, harmonic line topped by a melodic line that dances in a difference direction. Hoefner solos on feel and exploits subtle cues coming from his rhythm section, and when he's done, the music engages in another motif for Blake's tenor sax turn, whose soaring howls has the full band behind him. The creativity with rhythmic patterns continues with "New Found Jig," a 12/8 signature the forms the foundation for a Corea-esque melodic density. Blake does his best Michael Brecker while Kronreif causes a commotion right behind him. Hoefner invests a lot of craftsmanship in that piano solo that's funky with a tinge of blues. And "Elements" is a high-motion tune with a catchy, three-beat riff that sets the whole thing up. Kronreif is working overtime to navigate the melody through the mood changes, Anning's solo spotlight is right in that elusive pocket and Blake grounds the whole thing by pouring on the soul.
The lighter tempo tunes also possess a dancing quality to them. The title track is a smoothly flowing melodic progression belying its sashaying rhythm from Kronreif's brushes. Hoefner puts in right measure of emotion in his solo and once again, he devises a new section for Blake, who switches to the lilting soprano sax for this song. "The Narrows" (along with ""North Country") is the slowest song of this collection, but it's situated right at the front of the album, probably to showcase Hoefner's emotive rhapsodies that stand up to being exposed more with a slower pace, and Blake's mournful sax illuminates the feeling so well.
"The Bottom Line" is the closest Hoefner gets to jazz tradition, a swing tune that has the motion of a bop tune but nonetheless mixes modern jazz chords with blues. That doesn't keep Blake from contributing cool bop-inspired tenor sax lines, however.
They say the third time is the charm, and Florian Hoefner's third album Luminosity has charm, freshness, dynamism and more. Evidently, heading up to far-eastern Canada was a good move for him.