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Monday, June 14, 2021

Thomas Heberer, Joe Fonda & Joe Hertenstein - Remedy (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2021) ****½

By Stef Gijssels

I'm not sure when German trumpeter Thomas Heberer and drummer Joe Hertenstein initially met, but it might have been through the performances with the James Choice Orchestra, an ensemble founded by the most forward thinking German musicians, active in the first decade of this century. They continued collaborating when both moved to New York in the last decade. Their joint recording output starts in 2010 with "HNH", also a trumpet trio with Pascal Niggenkemper on bass. Their quartet release "Polylemma" was also of excellent quality, and won the Happy New Ears Award for 2011. In 2015, "HNH" received a follow-up, with the same title, called the "white album". 

When Roy Campbell Jr. passed away in 2014, Heberer was asked to replace him for concerts and albums with the Nu Band, in the company of Mark Whitecage, Lou Grassi and Joe Fonda. The German trumpeter has been a mainstay in many bands, but the ICP Orchestra especially, the Instant Composers Pool, the Dutch ensemble with crazy ideas and virtuoso delivery. 

Joe Hertenstein is equally versatile and active in different ensembles, including the Core Trio, and recordings with Matthew Shipp, Ivo Perelman, Jon Irabagon, Daniel Carter and the recent Sana Nagano. Joe Fonda does not need any introduction I assume. 

And now the trio. A band of equals. All three musicians composed three to four moments of the album, merged into eight composed improvised pieces. Like in the introductory piece, "The Closer You Are, The Further It Gets", the somewhat dragging insistent theme is a an excuse to play around with tempo and solos. This is jazz, no doubt about it, stripped to its essence of stellar interplay, brilliant soloing and fun in each other's but also one's own mastery of the instrument. Heberer enjoys his soaring flights on the trumpet, Fonda relishes in his powerful plucking and sensitive bowing, and Hertenstein takes pleasure in subtle rhythms and unexpected ear candy. Yet they enjoy listening to each other even more. Together they move as one, following implicit patterns, falling back on pre-agreed structural and thematic anchor points. This is jazz, with all its nervousness, its agitation, its emotional depth, its instrumental prowess, its freedom and joy. 

The music was recorded in August 2020, the day before Hertenstein decided to return to Berlin due to the pandemic, and after the three of them had taken advantage in the corona lull in summer to meet and rehearse. Hence the album's title: their collaboration served as a remedy to stay sane physically and mentally. 

There are no weak points to discern. The composing is good, as is the interplay. Joe Fonda penned two tributes to Wadada Leo Smith, and the wonderful bass line for "Fast #2", an uptempo high energy piece. "Zebra", penned and introduced by Hertenstein gives a wink to traditional jazz, but the center piece of the album is the collective composition/suite "You Are There-Roadmap 616-James J.". 

The album ends with "Waltz For Daisy", dedicated to Joe Hertenstein's wife, who would be leaving for Berlin too the next day. 

Don't miss this one. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the beautiful review, dear Stef! Take care, Thomas