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Bruno Heinen & Kristian Borring: Postcard To Bill Evans

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.

If Postcard To Bill Evans is less daring, conceptually speaking, than Heinen's Karlheinz Stockhausen-based recording Tierkreis, it's a satisfying homage nonetheless. 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.

January 2016