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Bruno Heinen: Pianist as Composer

The Guardian has described Bruno Heinen's music as 'eclectic, eccentric and unobtrusively erudite'. His new single Next But One' is from his forthcoming EP ' Boxed Invert Presume'. "It's a solo piano thing using improvised overdubs to explore questions of chance, fate and groove."

To accompany it's release, Bruno has selected "8 recordings I love of pianists playing their own music". Listen up.

1.Fats Waller - Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now

"Andy Razaf, who co-wrote many of Waller’s songs described him as...the soul of melody... a man who made the piano sing... both big in body and in mind... known for his generosity... a bubbling bundle of joy...All of that comes across here. As well as both big in body and mind, I love the big beat in his time-feel, it is just so solid and happy. There is a great balance between the understated intro and the flamboyant ending."

2. György Kurtág - Hommage à Kurtág Marta

"I got into these volumes of short pieces by György Kurtág while I was studying classical piano. They are entitled Játékok, which translates as ‘games’. I played this particular one to Kurtág himself in a masterclass. These pieces were inspired by what children do when they first come to the piano, which I find quite ironic, as he is so extremely precise and exacting in his direction of how they should be played, both on the page and in person. He didn’t let me get past playing him the first chord, demanding it again and again with a slightly different attack / dynamic /sonority etc. I feel a profound sense beauty in the three intervals that follow that first entry. A sense of nostalgia."

3. Hubert Nuss - The Three Doomed Men

“Apart from the beautiful sound these three make on their instruments, the depth and clarity of the sound of the recording has a lot to do with why I love this album so much. Everything and nothing happens in this episodic track. The opening tense Messiaenic harmony gives way, and is eventually resolved. The final cadential section seems to expand through endless time and with complete calm. It is a piece to help out in moments of stress."

4. Eubie Blake - Memories of You

"I had been playing this beautiful ballad for years before hearing Eubie Blake play it himself. I didn’t realise it had this great intro/verse. I love the vibe when he goes into time. He takes a sudden momentary pause from the stride vibe with an arresting and unexpected stop around three and a half minutes in. Gets me every time."

5. Fred Hersch - Sarabande

"This is from the record that initially got me into Fred Hersch. Having spent some time with Hersch through my doctoral research, I can hear the depth and strength of his character shining through in his playing on this track. My interviews with him were centred around the subject of his use of improvised counterpoint, and his insights were invaluable. We spoke about his detailed practice of the Bach chorales, improvising several parts simultaneously, his exploration of tension and release through marked arrival points, and his use of counterpoint as a route to surprising himself, and by extension the listener. However, his honesty as a musician, and his generosity of spirit is probably the greatest thing I took away from those sessions with him."

6. Béla Bartók - Improvisations Op.20: n.2

"I first came across this suite of 8 short pieces in my early twenties. They are based on Hungarian folk songs. Each movement is only a minute or so long, but Bartók does so much with the melodies in that time. The piece often comes under the title of 8 Improvisations, and this is the nature in which Bartók himself plays them. It had been in the back of my mind to do something of my own with them for many years, and I am happy to have just released my own take on the folk melodies as an album entitled Out of Doors with my trio, featuring Andrea Di Biase and Gene Calderazzo."

7. McCoy Tyner - Effendi

"I love McCoy’s sound. Watching him play on more than one occasion, I was first struck by his technique. Such a relaxed position at the piano, using all his arm weight to get that deep sound, and with no unnecessary movements.

I remember the same thing seeing Elvin play at Ronnie’s. Relaxed, yet focussed and having such a great time playing - that’s what stayed with me. You can hear that in both of them on this record I think."

8. John Taylor - In February

From the album Songs and Variations

"I learned so much from studying with JT. Not always in a received way, more by osmosis. He didn’t really show me anything, or give me anything to work through, but I learned some of his compositions, and we would play them together on two pianos. This is one of those tunes. When I brought it in, he had forgotten about it and was happy to play it again – it comes with nice memories for me. The progression in this composition sounds so natural. It is one of those that he makes sound so easy, but it is not! I remember in that session he gave me some great advice on playing solo – told me never to write a set list."


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