REVIEW: Bruno Heinen - Mr. Vertigo album launch at Kings Place

Receiving well-deserved applause at Kings Place: Bruno Heinen

Bruno Heinen - Mr. Vertigo album launch 
Kings Place Hall Two. 29 March 2018. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Perhaps the first thing to express in this review is a sense of huge relief. There has been a tendency in solo piano shows, particularly when the musicians involved are finding their way into bigger halls, to want/need to project on a large scale, to conceive of the piano as a mighty orchestra, to build fiendish complexity into inner parts, to go above all for big resonance, almost to want do deny the fact that  once a piano string has been struck, the note is already starting to die. (I’m remembering this one and this one, and to a lesser extent this mostly amplified one.)

Bruno Heinen’s vivid and varied imagination provides the antidote to all that.  Heinen has all kinds of other projects on the go from an Italian trio to a ska band (I'm told...), an ensemble doing respectful things to Vivaldi (rather than this)... So the solo piano is there to be enjoyed on its own, quieter, more thoughtful terms. As he showed last night at the well-attended album launch for his solo project Mr. Vertigo, he has plenty of well thought-out directions to go, indeed an almost infinite variety of them, without ever needing to go XXXL.

OK, that's not 100% true. He did go there once: there was a short episode in the tune In Kochi where he brought on the sonic overload effect, but it was the exception, and he had explained the purpose of it and what he was trying to illustrate. And it worked, as an effect.

As he explained in an email interview we did before this concert, Bruno Heinen’s solo album and project is the fruit of work towards a nearly completed PhD on the use of counterpoint, using the work of Fred Hersch as its starting-point. Hersch has built the solo recital into such an intimate art form, and that benign influence is clearly there. The explicit sense of that authentic and direct legacy is most obviously present in Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks. Heinen was proud to stand in that legacy: Rowles taught the tune to Hersch, Hersch explained it to Heinen during two weeks of regular meetings in New York. Heinen's account of it last night was delicate, poised, balanced, and unfolded the story beautifully.

Other moments closest to the jazz piano heritage were a tender, thoughtful and shaped performance of John Taylor’s Ambleside, and a delightful encore, Bill Evans’ Time Remembered. That final performance seemed to sum up the best about his playing: there was complexity in the lines but always balance. Heinen was exploring all kinds of scales and modes, but the voicings were always very clear. His playing can take on a feel of extreme busy-ness, but he never allows the textures to become crowded or cluttered.

Heinen also showed those other avenues. The contrast between real and imagined or “other” sounds in Mirage (with writer Nicki Heinen reading her poem about a hot climate), karnatic scales, a homage to his ethnomusicologist grandfather in In Kochi, the Ravel/Satie persuasion in Daydreamer, the contrast between a Stockhausen music box and the piano in Virgo. All the technology and the dramaturgy worked perfectly – except for one touching, all-too-human moment when Heinen forgot to remove sheets of paper from above the piano strings.

For its variety, poetry, and clarity this was a fine recital.

SET LISTS

Virgo – Stockhausen arr. Heinen
Forgotten Images – inspired by Debussy)
Hommage à Kurtag
International Blues – inspired by Yves Klein
The Peacocks – Jimmy Rowles arr. Heinen

Mirage – with poem by Nicki Heinen
Ambleside – John Taylor
Daydreamer – inspired by Wayne Shorter
Mr Vertigo – inspired by Paul Auster
In Kochi
Encore: Time Remembered – Bill Evans

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