CD - Talking Trees
Erik Huele, a small, dapper young man, a bit shy perhaps, uttering soft spoken comments and questions, is a well known member of the local jazzscene in Groningen, Holland. Leading his own bands and organising jam sessions, he was awarded the Henri de Wolf Jazzprize in 1986, an event which scarcely changed his basic attitude to music. Huele still appears to be the guy who is almost at home behind the grand piano, not in front of it. So, for his first record, it's hardly surprising that it turns out to be a set of solo piano pieces.
What strikes most about this collection is not so much the variety - although there's plenty of it - as the notion that this music is one of a piece. It's not too hard to recognise Huele's background and influences in the music - there's classical, romantic piano here, African rythm, a touch of minimal music, jazz in timing and improvisation etc. - but it's all cast in a characteristicly intimate, reflective mood, pervading all of the music.
In this respect, the quality of recording deserves to be mentioned. It's all there: deep bass and brilliant treble, the full dynamic range of the grand piano, sounding big and rich, incisive and warm. A recording sensitive to every nuance, with just the right amount of natural ambience and, above all, perfectly in acoord with the character of the music.
Huele's classical background as a pianist is clearly recognizable in these pieces. Not only in Andante - whith it's typically graceful 3/8 feeling - but also in Oostum, Lasne and Hotel Weisshorn where a pastoral mood dominates the proceedings. Oostum, by the way, is a very small village north of Groningen (actually just a church surrounded by farmhouses) and Lasne a village south of Brussels, while the Weisshorn Hotel is dearly remembered by Huele as 'one of the nicest places in all Switzerland, only to be reached by foot, with an absolutely ravishing fin-de-siècle atmosphere and no electricity, just gaslight.'
Although not deliberately meant to evoke particular scenes, places or situations, the music certainly contains elements of impressionism. Like Jasper (dedicated to the great Dutch pianist Jasper van 't Hof) is a good example. Here melody is instrumental to harmonic movement and tone-colouristic effect.
Traces Africaines, Short Pieces no. 3 and Straight are marked by their strong rhythmic character. They're excursions in rhythm and sound - especially the latter, where great use is made of the piano's capacity to generate all kinds of overtones.
Huele's liking for elastic, unpredictable forms is expresses clearly in the two Gestures. More abstract than the other pieces, they seem to be guided chiefly by intuition, each note indicating new directions and possibilities. In First throw one is reminded of the movements of a painter, hitting the all-white canvas with fresh paint, self-assured but yet uninformed about the ultimate result of his actions.
Distribution: Timbre Records