Best jazz albums of 2015 - The Telegraph
The two albums made by the great Bill Evans with the guitarist Jim Hall a half-century ago are among the most exquisite jazz records ever made. So for young British pianist Bruno Heinen and Danish guitarist Kristian Borring to make a recording of some classical Evans numbers might seem like lèse-majesté. In fact they don’t suffer by the comparison. They’ve avoided the compositions on those two albums, recording seven Evans originals, plus Bernstein’s Some Other Time, Kern’s All The Things You Are and an original number by Heinen entitled Postcard to Bill that could almost be a long-lost original by the great man.Each track is a model of quiet stylishness, with nicely witty touches like the striding bass in Interplay, over which the melody lopes like a gazelle, or the ending of Show Type Tune, where a dancing phrase steps elegantly up the keyboard until it almost disappears off the top. It’s a tribute to how well these players know each other that they can bowl along in swinging rhythms for a minute at a stretch, without treading on each other’s toes. By the fourth track I was beginning to wonder whether the album wasn’t tipping over from sophistication into preciousness, but on numbers like Five real energy breaks through the cool surface. ★★★★☆ Ivan Hewett
Album Launch Review - "a highly elegant evening of Evansiana that journeyed to the heart of modern jazz, the pulse of it all still turning over and beating strong and sure." - Marlbank
Within the benevolent womb of sound as we sat at small tables illuminated by little tea lights, above us balloon-like globes that looked like water-filled moons, the two players, Kristian Borring on his bespoke Victor Baker-designed guitar, and Bruno Heinen perched at a simple upright piano, were playing material largely drawn from their new album on Babel, Postcard to Bill Evans.
With the lights so low the gleam of camera phones was largely, and perhaps refreshingly, absent as everything was so dark as to prevent any wannabe David Baileys in the room pick up anything but the faintest of outlines, the shining was all in the playing. Heinen – familiar from his very different Stockhausen project Tierkreis from two years ago – and Borring whose impressionistic Urban Novel came out to appreciative murmurs last year, found themselves in intimate surroundings at this Kingsland Road restaurant wine-bar, an adjective Heinen himself chose when he spoke quietly to the audience talking briefly as he courteously called out the names of the tunes.
Deliberately avoiding any of the repertoire on Bill Evans’ two albums with Jim Hall, Undercurrent and Intermodulation made four years apart in the 1960s, the shadow of both albums nonetheless loomed large here certainly in the glistening acoustic ping of after notes, the succinctness of chordal empathy, the power of concentration and bliss of release.
Borring, jacketed in the first half, running his long fingers up and down the neck of the guitar fashioning arches, completing complicated scrunching and sliding friction as he deftly delivered a ready stream of knowing progressions occasionally octave-leaping like Wes Montgomery, the lead notes of each player developed independent lines parallel in their instincts via modal counterpoint.
Heinen, in the more bop-derived sections, drew out the Bud Powell side of Evans’ playing but mainly emphasised the sheer lyricism of the style and in-the-moment reaction to his playing partner’s hints and ideas, the conversational aspect of their interplay a factor.
Tunes in the first set included ‘Time Remembered’ and ‘Gone with the Wind’ (the pair mixing standards that Evans played as well as the pianist’s own compositions).
The ghost in the room, again not played like the Hall-Evans material, was ‘Blue in Green’ from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, but again it was the overall atmosphere rather than ticking off and trotting through headline pieces that counted. The version of Jimmy Rowles’ powerfully invasive ballad ‘The Peacocks’ was a big highlight, waftingly gentle and yet full of emotion in the sweep of the interpretation.
Sitting in a venue named after a classic Thelonious Monk album and hearing the pair late-on play a scurrying version of Monk’s ‘Bemsha Swing’, a tune that appeared on the 1957 Riverside album, guitar taking the melody first, seemed appropriate and a match in a highly elegant evening of Evansiana that journeyed to the heart of modern jazz, the pulse of it all still turning over and beating strong and sure.
"STYLISH, POLISHED, ETHEREAL TAKE ON GREAT PIANIST'S LITTLE-COVERED OEUVRE" ★★★★☆ - MATTHEW WRIGHT - ARTS DESK
Jazz pianist Bill Evans was a titanic figure in jazz performance until addiction and death took him in 1980, his blend of strength and sensitivity unparalleled, while his collaborations with Miles Davis and Charles Mingus, among others, left epochal records. Yet Evans is covered much less frequently than his contemporaries, so this release by London jazz pianist Bruno Heinen and Danish guitarist Kristian Borring is a timely reminder of what we’ve been missing.
Heinen is best known for the intriguing album Tierkreis, which re-worked a 1974 piece of the same name written for 12 music boxes by German experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. While that collection gave free rein to Heinen’s conceptual flair, this one comes from the heart: it was a Bill Evans album that drew the classically-trained pianist into jazz.
The title track, the only original, is led by Borring’s agile guitar, his tone poised beautifully between adventure and reflection, joined first tentatively, then with increasing harmonic tenacity, by Heinen. The clearest traces of guitarist Jim Hall, who accompanied Evans on two acclaimed 1960s albums, emerge here in Borring’s delicate, playful phrasing. The interaction between players is sumptuous throughout, with a profound sense of mutual harmonic understanding and a series of absorbing duels.
Most of the rest are Evans favourites: “34 Skidoo”, here sounding more silky and ethereal than the original, and “Peri’s Scope”, full of Evans’ band’s quizzical energy, with a purer sound, are typical of this duo’s approach. Heinen’s Steinway and Borring’s guitar have a polished resonance that creates beautiful, transparent pools of sound in which the audience can float, or sink. Sometimes, with both players pealing together it can sound a bit too bright, the lack of earthy timbres felt, but it suits their contemplative take on Evans. Live, there are more originals in the repertoire, and their inclusion here could have created a sense of dialogue with Evans, but as a tribute to him, this is distinctive, absorbing and stylish.
"an album which declares a deep understanding of Evans' catalogue, there's a real sense of jazz tradition being cherished and passed on, with new life and invention sensitively breathed into it. Full of gradually unfolding nuances, it pleasingly becomes a postcard to keep" - Adrian Pallant - london jazz
The postcard reference in the title of this new duo release from London-based artists Bruno Heinen (piano) and Kristian Borring (guitar) is significant, as there is a background thread which demonstrates the power and influence of continuity; the passing-down of musical brilliance and knowledge to future jazz generations.
Bruno Heinen cites Bill Evans – and initially his own uncle Johannes Heinen, a Cologne-based jazz pianist, who gave him a copy of Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard – as his route into jazz. At the Royal College of Music, Heinen was until that point focused primarily on his classical music studies, "but that album opened my ears to a whole new way of thinking. I was drawn first to his sound and classical approach. I transcribed most of the solos from that album, and began the work of learning the language." He would later be taught and inspired, as were many others, by John Taylor at the Guildhall School of Music (where this duo first met, on the jazz post-grad course) – and it is both Evans and Taylor that Heinen names as his greatest influences.
There's a certain adventurousness in recording an album of venerated Bill Evans originals (as the majority of these ten tracks are); and the concept of piano-and-guitar interpretations seems more daring still. But this collaboration throws a different light on these 1950s/60s treasures with remarkable parity of chordal structure and improvised solo line (so much so that one could almost envisage two interlocked Steinways, were it not for the mellow, often playful breeziness of Kristian Borring's guitar tone). So, in opener Time Remembered, Borring's ascending and descending cadences weave organically into Heinen's opening solo statement before the duo continue to share and intertwine ideas. The skipping melodies of Peri's Scope's (a half century or more later, and sans bass and drums) are invigorated in this charming, levitational reading – a delicate balance which is, nevertheless, always assured; and 34 Skidoo's original, jaunty waltz is painted afresh, in delicate, rain-drizzled watercolour.
The bluesy swagger of Evans' Interplay is more introverted here, though its new, subtly impish character is defined by the duo's precise, tiptoed interaction; and, in similar vein, familiar Five rolls cheekily to intricately crossing counterpoint and beautifully suggested, non-percussive rhythm. The extended conjoining of Epilogueand Leonard Bernstein's Some Other Time reveals perhaps the most reverential attention to Bill Evans' searching, pianistic persona – nine minutes of glorious, quietly-shifting extemporisation which almost evade time; and Displacement (going back to 1956) again retains the sprightly charm of Evans' original, both musicians tidily scampering with a seemingly innate sense of equilbrium.
Heinen's own composition, Postcard to Bill, suggests something of a 'giving back' to the master, as Borring's eloquent solo heralds an amiable, sunshiny outing which could just as easily have been selected from Evans' repertoire – and Heinen's own solo feature here is particularly fine-spun. The sumptuous, Evans-style, chordal rubato of Show Type Tune's piano introduction breaks into blithe, lilting bossa, with Borring's characterful, nimble guitar improvisation and Heinen's high octaves the key to its elegance; and, to close, the warmth of this partnership is magnified in a magnificently swinging, live rendition of Jerome Kern's All The Things You Are(recorded at the Vortex).
In an album which declares a deep understanding of Evans' catalogue, there's a real sense of jazz tradition being cherished and passed on, with new life and invention sensitively breathed into it. Full of gradually unfolding nuances, it pleasingly becomes a postcard to keep.
"British-based piano-guitar duo Bruno Heinen and Kristian Borring bring a synergy to their playing that is almost on a par with that of Evans and his sometime collaborator Jim Hall" Chris pearson - the times
The spirit of the American pianist Bill Evans looms almost as large in contemporary jazz as those of Miles and Trane. This tribute is therefore nothing unusual. Yet the British-based piano-guitar duo Bruno Heinen and Kristian Borring bring a synergy to their playing that is almost on a par with that of Evans and his sometime collaborator Jim Hall. Standout tracks include a lyrical 34 Skidoo and some ear-catching piano riffs in Show Type Tune. Will you buy this in preference to the original albums? Of course not — but you definitely should catch them live. (Babel)
As the arrangements feature piano and electric guitar only, Postcard To Bill Evans could conceivably have been recorded long before 2014. Yet there's nothing anachronistic about music that sounds so fresh: just as Evans reinvigorated older tunes with new life, Heinen and Borring do much the same with their predecessor's own songbook. - Textura
Everybody Digs Bill Evans—so proclaims the title on the cover of the pianist's 1959 Riverside release. Certainly Bruno Heinen could be counted among those harbouring such a sentiment given that the London-based pianist has openly acknowledged Evans to be his biggest influence. But even deprived of that detail one would still be able to make the connection: Heinen shares with his predecessor key traits, among them delicacy of touch, elegant phrasemaking, and a penchant for lyricism, and like Evans he also deftly blends the refinement of classical technique with the fundamental swing of jazz. We shouldn't forget that while Postcard To Bill Evans centers on the pianist, it's also dedicated to guitarist Jim Hall, Evans' partner on many a session. Filling the guitar chair on this date is the London-based Danish musician Kristian Borring, with whom Heinen first crossed paths when the two were studying at London's Guildhall School of Music.
Evans had an alchemical gift for transforming familiar material into something new; the life he breathed into standards such as “Tenderly” and “My Romance” could make them feel as if they'd never been heard before. Yet while much of his playbook consisted of covers, Evans' own compositions today are standards in their own right, with jazz musicians regularly performing their own versions of “Waltz For Debby” and “Re: Person I Knew.” Though neither pieces appear on Postcard To Bill Evans, others by Evans do: “Time Remembered,” “34 Skidoo,” “Peri's Scope,” and “Show Type Tune” are present, for example, as are standards, including “Some Other Time” and a live performance of “All the Things You Are.” Appearing alongside the covers is a sole original, Heinen's title track.
“34 Skidoo” is so delicately rendered it verges on impressionistic, and melody and harmony dominate in treatments that are anything but raw and dissonant. Delicacy of touch and breeziness are present throughout, never more so than during the opening “Time Remembered,” which the pianist introduces with an Evans-styled solo before the guitarist joins in with his own fluid expressions, and “Peri's Scope,” a joyous and irrepressibly swinging tune Evans wrote for his girlfriend in 1959. The blues-bop side of his music comes even more to the fore during the Monk-ish“Five,” one of the recording's most playful pieces. Elsewhere, “Displacement” is elevated by the exuberance of the duo's playing, “Show Type Tune” exudes a rather bossa nova-esque quality thanks to the guitarist's chords, and the live “All the Things You Are” caps the release with eight minutes of high-energy interplay. Throughout the disc, Borring eschews distortion for a clean sound that complements Heinen's, something especially evident during the many times the two play in unison. Though it's typically the pianist who's heard first on the album's pieces, it's the guitarist who inaugurates the title track with Hall-like flourishes.
"What a Delight" - Bebop Spoken Here
What a delight! A choice selection of Evans' classic compositions, a standard and an original by Heinen which is also the title track. Postcard to Bill Evans is arguably the best track on the CD although that is a very subjective and ephemeral judgement as, each time I play the album another one gets its nose in front!
Apart from the title track and All the Things You Are, the other eight pieces are pretty well known items from the Bill Evans songbook reminding us just how talented he was, not just as a pianist but also as a composer. Heinen is deeply into Evans without losing his own identity and fully deserving of accolades from such as The Guardian's John Fordham - "the kind of erudite and curious new arrival destined to make a real difference".
Danish guitarist Borring is with him all the way and the pairing often brings to mind the legendary sessions Evans did with Jim Hall.
"gorgeous tribute...played with great sensitivity as well as impressive technical accomplishment."- John Watson - Jazz camera
Anyone who loved the classic collaborations between the great pianist Bill Evans and guitar master Jim Hall - and who could not? - will certainly warm to this gorgeous tribute from London-based pianist Bruno Heinen and Danish guitarist Kristian Borring. Their empathy with the music of Evans is engaging, and these ten tracks - mostly compositions by Evans - are played with great sensitivity as well as impressive technical accomplishment.
The classics include 'Time Remembered', 'Peri's Scope', '34 Skidoo' (given ballad treatment here) and 'Show Type Tune'. The sixth track combines a lovely solo piano performance of Evans' 'Epilogue' with Leonard Bernstein's 'Some Other Time' (from the musical 'On The Town', and which Evans recorded with Tony Bennett), with Borring's subtle guitar leading the melody. Borring also leads the tender introduction to the one original compositon on the disc, Heinen's 'Postcard To Bill', a mellow piece which picks up into a gentle swinger as the pianist takes up the theme. The album closes with a sprightly uptempo workhout on Jerome Kern's 'All The Things You Are', recorded live at The Vortex in London.
A really satisfying album, and fans can catch the duo live at venues including tonight (September 4th) at the Con Cellar Bar, Constitution Pub, Camden, London; Sheffileld Firth Hall on October 24; at The Vortex as part of the London Jazz Festival on November 14; and at the Royal Festival Hall Foyer in London on January 22 next year.
"THE WHOLE ALBUM DOES BILL EVANS PROUD. I REACHED DOWN FOR MY OWN COPY OF SUNDAY AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD AND REMINDED MYSELF OF WHAT A TRULY GREAT MUSICIAN BILL EVANS WAS." - SANDY BROWN JAZZ
Has there ever been a more influential modern jazz pianist than Bill Evans? Probably, but, even so, it does seem sometimes that the current crop of up and coming jazz pianists all have at least a little bit of Bill in their DNA.
As the title implies, Postcard to Bill Evans is an album which is explicit about the debt. The pianist, Bruno Heinen and guitarist, Kristian Borring, take a number of Evans tunes and reinterpret them in a way that isn’t some slavish pastiche but a genuine reworking for a contemporary audience. “Bill Evans was my way in to jazz”, says Heinen,
“…at 18 years old, my uncle (Johannes Heinen – a Koln based jazz pianist) gave me a copy of Sunday at the Village Vanguard. At the time I was only playing classical music (and hadn’t checked out much jazz at all), but that album opened my ears to a whole new way of thinking. I was drawn first to his sound and classical approach. I transcribed most of his solos from that album, and began the work of learning the language.”
Heinen went on to study classical piano at the Royal College of Music, and took his jazz Masters at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he was taught by the late John Taylor. He now teaches at the Guildhall. The Danish guitarist, Kristian Borring, studied jazz guitar at the Conservatorium Van Amsterdam before also ending up at the Guildhall and meeting Heinen there. Both musicians are now based in London.
The pairing of piano and guitar inevitably brings to mind the duets between Evans and guitarist, Jim Hall. Although Borring is clearly influenced by Jim Hall, he has his own style; and both Borring and Heinen are at pains not to be seen as merely copying the original Evans-Hall partnership. They have, for example, chosen compositions which were not those generally played by Evans and Hall together.
Bill Evans has become famous for a reflective way of playing which favours slower tempos and the creation of mood and emotion rather than ostentatious technical virtuosity; a style which owes as much to Debussy and Ravel as to Jelly Roll Morton. But he could also swing – sometimes pretty vigorously. And it is this more upbeat, playful Evans which Heinen and Borring are, for the most part, seeking to remember. Take the first track, for example, Time Remembered, an Evans composition from 1962. Heinen begins with a typical piece of Evans piano, creating a mood of slightly melancholic nostalgia. Borring gently ups the beat before both instruments - either together or soloing - launch into a gently swinging, foot tapping and very enjoyable performance.
The tempo is kept up on the next track, Peri’s Scope, from 1959. The main theme is a memorable one which takes some quite unexpected directions proving that Evans could be an interesting and accomplished composer as well as a great stylist. 34 Skidoo is more typical Evans, a dreamy ballad creating a mood of relaxed contemplation – and is, incidentally, another great tune. Piano and guitar play off each other very effectively. The fourth track, Interplay, is a jaunty blues with some great piano-guitar interplay sounding almost Bach-like, albeit Bach as filtered through Jacques Loussier.
Five is another upbeat piece with an edge reminiscent of Thelonious Monk. Again, there is an almost telepathic interplay between the two musicians which turns into something like the work Jim Hall did with another musical partner, Jimmy Guiffre, in the late fifties: light, cool, clever.
Epilogue/Some Other Time is two tunes taken together: Epilogue is an Evans composition in his slow, thoughtful mode which Heinen plays beautifully in a liquid avalanche of notes. This turns into Leonard Bernstein’s Some Other Timeplayed by both piano and guitar.
Displacement is a 1956 composition by Evans played at quite a quick tempo and notable for Borring’s Wes Montgomery chords. Postcard to Bill is composed by Bruno Heinen and begins with a slowish but effective guitar solo. The piano comes in and the beat steadily increases into a foot tapping, swinging, absorbing performance. Show Type Tune is back to Bill Evans and was written in 1962. It has a bossa nova beat, Heinen plays a jaunty solo, and Borring stretches out confidently on his solo sounding at times like Joao Gilberto on those Stan Getz records.
The final track is a live performance of the Jerome Kern standard (and Bill Evans favourite), All The Things You Are, recorded at the Vortex Jazz Club in London. Both Heinen and Borring let rip with some confident solos but also play marvellously together in a sort of staccato counterpoint.
The whole album does Bill Evans proud. I reached down for my own copy of Sunday at the Village Vanguard and reminded myself of what a truly great musician Bill Evans was.