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Wendy Rose: Transfixed by Florian Hoefner Trio

Jazz pianist Florian Hoefner (centre) plays with Newfoundland native, Jim Vivian (left) on bass and Nick Fraser on drums in the contemporary jazz act Florian Hoefner Trio. On Friday, the trio brought an appreciative crowd to the D.F. Cooke hall at MUN School of Music.
Jazz pianist Florian Hoefner (centre) plays with Newfoundland native, Jim Vivian (left) on bass and Nick Fraser on drums in the contemporary jazz act Florian Hoefner Trio. On Friday, the trio brought an appreciative crowd to the D.F. Cooke hall at MUN School of Music. - Submitted

After waiting in line for tickets at the D.F. Cooke Hall on January 19, we entered the hall to find a nearly full house.

We were lucky to locate two seats together among the large crowd gathered for the contemporary jazz act Florian Hoefner Trio, comprised of the German pianist, jazz bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Nick Fraser.

View from the audience. — Wendy Rose photo
View from the audience. — Wendy Rose photo

“Art of the Trio” was prefaced by an introduction from Ian Sutherland, the dean of the MUN School of Music. He thanked the gathered crowd, and plugged some upcoming events, like the 15th annual Newfound Music Festival, and Jon Kimura Parker in concert with MUN Symphony Orchestra, before raffling off tickets to the show.

With spirits high, the trio entered the hall, wordlessly stepping to their instruments as the audience welcomed them with an appreciative round of applause.

Hoefner, Vivian and Fraser launched into their first tune. I was immediately transfixed by the drummer. Jazz drummers are always impressive to me, as their approach and technique is so vastly different from rock and roll or heavy metal drummers. Using both regular wooden drumsticks, drum brushes and even playing with his hands, Fraser’s contribution to the trio’s sound was undeniably strong, especially in his drum solo on their first track.

That is not to say that Hoefner and Vivian are not musical forces to be reckoned with.

Although back on to me, Hoefner appeared to be having a great time, as his hands leapt around the piano.

The bass was occasionally overshadowed by the neighbouring drum kit, but Vivian’s talent was exceptionally present and impressive during his many solos.

The solos flowed seamlessly in their tunes, never seeming like an opportunity to “show off” their skills, as one might see at rock concerts, when the solo becomes its own entity and breaks away from the set.

Hoefner thanked the gathered crowd, before explaining how he had adapted music from his quartet, Florian Hoefner Group, for this trio.

The trio played a number of tracks from 2016’s “Luminosity,” including “The Narrows” and “New Found Jig,” a “jazz jig” inspired by Newfoundland traditional jigs.

Performing this piece must have been extra exciting for Vivian, an ex-pat Newfoundlander now based in Ontario, on the faculty at University of Toronto and York University.

The band also performed a cover of Sam Amidon’s “Short Life,” this version somewhat indistinguishable from the original version by the American folk artist.

Another cover, a Levon Helm tune off “Dirt Farmer,” was a stark departure from The Band drummer’s 2007 album.

When introducing an arrangement based on a Rufus Guinchard fiddle tune, Hoefner explained that when he was arranging this piece, he wondered, “What would Rufus think of this?”

After hearing the track, I would imagine that Guinchard, an instrumentalist and composer, would give his seal of approval.

Communicating with their eyes, the band worked their way through the set, slowing it down with “The Narrows,” off “Luminosity.”

The most solemn piece of the evening, this made for the perfect set-up for the trio’s final track, Stan Rogers’ “The Maid on the Shore.”

The fast-paced tune served as the perfect outro, ending the Friday night show on the same high note at which it began.

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