Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Joe Hertenstein, Pascal Niggenkemper, Thomas Heberer - HNH (Clean Feed, 2010) ****½

I started the year by giving "Pieces For A Husky Puzzle" with Thomas Heberer on trumpet a five-star rating. Today, we find Heberer back with two fellow countrymen, also from Cologne, Germany : Joe Hertenstein on drums and Pascal Niggenkemper on bass. Heberer was known to me, a fantastic trumpeter with solid background and whose music is hard to predict, ranging from traditional jazz to acoustic and electronic avant-garde.

Hertenstein and Niggenkemper I didn't know musically. This is Hertenstein's debut as a leader, and what his trio brings here is a pure delight, finding an interesting niche of incredibly rhythmic free improvisation : the music swings from beginning to end, but then with the improvisational and sonic freedom of modern music, with lots of tempo and rhythm changes, yet never losing the implicit pulse and forward drive that underpins every note they play.

The trio leads us through abstract environments but the blues is never far away : tracks like "Screw The Pendulum" and "Lucretia's Legacy" have this deep emotional resonance going back to the origins of jazz, while remaining very open-structured. Other pieces like "Prelude And Tomorrow's Problem" move from the abstract to a more composed form, ending with a theme. Others like "Tolliver's Toll" do the opposite, kicking off in a more traditional way, then quickly shifting to more adventurous territories. Yet at no time do the musicians go beyond the traditional sound of their instruments. There are almost no extended techniques to be heard, which gives the overall sound a pretenseless and honest ring.

Technically superb, with wonderful interaction, incredible pulse and creativity, embracing the new without relinquishing tradition, balanced and warm, honest and authentic. Refreshing and great fun to listen to ... again and again.

© stef

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