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Florian Hoefner Group: Luminosity

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“Typical” and “generic” aren’t synonyms. Pianist Florian Hoefner works to create music that “doesn’t sound like generic jazz.” To be sure, Luminosity, Hoefner’s third album with his quartet, is not generic, with its oblong structures and meters that require listeners to search for the 1. But its use of those elements to distinguish it does make it fairly typical mid-2010s postbop.

But never mind: The point is it’s very good mid-2010s postbop, balancing its self-conscious complexity with accessibility. “Elements” is an instructive example. It deploys a 5/4 vamp (for Hoefner, bassist Sam Anning and drummer Peter Kronreif) that’s syncopated so it sounds like a fast waltz; it’s also set in a close harmony that makes it catchy, with a Seamus Blake tenor part that transcends lyricism to become anthemic. The harmonic and rhythmic cycles of “In Circles” tend to shrug off attempts to follow them, but at the same time Hoefner plays a solo that’s oddly welcoming. Blake’s solo, which follows, has a halting trajectory that seems as though it’s stopping to let passengers on and off; ditto his long-tone soprano lines on “Luminosity,” which also have able support from Anning. Hoefner’s structures may confound, but he and his ensemble find ways to bring the listener home.

There’s another, more atypical element at play on Luminosity: soul, the sort that traditionalists worry is being erased from jazz. No doubt that Seamus Blake, among the most casually soulful saxophonists of his generation, has something to do with that. On “The Narrows” his every note adds peppery flavor, and his phrases have bluesy inflections. “Newfound Jig,” based as it is on Irish dance music, nonetheless comes with a deep resonance (courtesy of Blake, Anning and Kronreif’s toms) that reaches all the way to Africa. Hoefner may abhor “generic,” but he knows his jazz.

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