The New York City Jazz Record reviews 3 new albums by Gregor Huebner.
The empowering culmination of 23 years of collaborations between pianist Richie Beirach and violinist Gregor Huebner, Crossing Borders is a prodigious, multi-faceted ensemble work with the WDR Big Band that, as per its title, celebrates the ability of music and art to transcend the spiritually limiting realities of xenophobia and tribal-based politics.
The all-original set centers on two intricate, alternately rousing and graceful, explosive and hushed, booming and graceful three movement concertos for the duo’s respective solo instruments and orchestra. Huebner is the melodic focal point of “Violin Concerto No. 3,.” wraps its thematic heart around the devastation, mourning and ultimate hope and healing in the wake of a devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal. The violinist wrote “Piano Concerto No. 3: The Code” as a testament to the duo’s “code of playing music at a high level – and a glorious, historically steeped, often highly personal showcase for Beirach’s versatile approach to jazz and classical structure.
The concertos are bookended with playfully revamped versions of pieces that Beirach wrote earlier in his career, starting with the medley “Rectilinear/Paradox” (featuring the pianist on electric piano) and continuing through “Elm” from 1979 and “Pendulum” from a year earlier. It’s wonderful to see two versatile veteran musical soul mates so artfully celebrate their own seamless intuitive interaction while pointing our hearts towards a brighter future for mankind.
By Dick Metcalf, Contemporary Fusion Reviews
Highly creative timely and timeless Richie Beirach Gregor Huebner Duo – CROSSING BORDERS: This beautiful big-band-oriented release features Richie Beirach’s high-energy piano, with violin from Gregor Huebner (the full player list can be found on the Zoho Records page)… though the clip below is from a couple years back, it will give you clear insight for the totally high-power performances on the song “Snow Leopard”, which is on the new release…
…you’ll want to make sure you SUBSCRIBE to Gregor Huebner’s YouTube channel, so you can witness many more performances.
The 6:04 opener alone, “Rectilinear Paradox” (samples aren’t up yet, as this doesn’t release until 10 May, 2019), makes the purchase of the album well worth it… in fact, this is my favorite “big-band” tune (yet) in 2019… the recording is flawless, to the point that you’ll be able to hear every nuance for every note, especially if you listen to it with headphones, as did I!
The third movement of Piano Concerto No 3, “The Code III Born in Brooklyn”, is certainly among the most exciting high-energy piano pieces I’ve ever listened to… if I were on the voting boards for awards, this tune would WIN, no doubt.
Clocking in at 10:46, the simply titled “Elm” was (hands-down) my favorite performance on the album… beautiful gentle intro leads into a wonderful bass solo, then a highly emotional violin solo from Gregor that will remain with you for months (if not years) to come… at about the 7:21 mark, the song starts to SOAR… wonderful, absolutely wonderful music!
I give this duo a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.99… this is an album that all big-band fans must have in their collections. Get more information on the Zoho page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
By Raul da Gama
To listen to the voice of The Dreamers struggling against a manic administration in the 2019 White House is not too much to ask for and not surprisingly Gregor Huebner makes a strong case for it in his profoundly beautiful and thought-provoking set of songs on Los Soñadores which is Spanish for “The Dreamers” as it turns out. Mr Huebner’s third installment of his El Violin Latino project is probably not a culmination of his journey through the seductive Afro-Cuban sojourn that he finds himself in, but it certainly puts him at the pinnacle of his achievements both as a violinist and a composer; one that finds him completely subsumed by the Afro-Cuban idiom. In fact, if you were in a blindfold test you would probably not be able to tell whether this was an Afro-Cuban violinist playing his music and that is saying much about the authenticity and sophistication of this repertoire.
The fact that Mr Huebner’s Germanic sensibility may have something to do with this “authenticity” and “sophistication” is key. He thrives in a culture that prides itself in the thoroughness with which it conducts study, going deep; penetrating deep beneath the skin of whatever it is he is studying so that he can not only become an expert (he is already a virtuoso violinist), but absorbing the culture so completely and penetrating the African code that is clave so that he appears to belong to the mighty pantheon of (in this case) the Afro-Cubans. It bears mention that he is joined on this journey by another German, Klaus Mueller on piano, who has given a fine account of himself here as well as on innumerable Afro-Brasilian musical projects too.
Therefore one must note that Mr Huebner not only does poetic justice to the repertoire on this disc composed by South Americans, but he has composed some fine repertoire himself and it is presented in all its glory on Los Soñadores. You get the measure of the majesty of this music right out of the gates; in a masterful Afro-Cuban interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Equinox”. This is followed by “Obsesión” and here Mr Huebner brings the seductive vocalist Yumarya on board to deliver the lyric. Miss Yumarya is an artist of the first order. Her voice springs from a place that is pristine and magical. The poetry of the lyrics becomes almost palpable; just as it is in the first of the extraordinary compositions by Mr Huebner – “Los Soñadores”, the credit for which also goes to Miss Yumarya, who sings delightfully in English too.
The performance of this repertoire is absolutely masterful and we hear the joy with which it is received by Mr Huebner himself shortly after the take of his meditative tribute to the people of “South Sudan”. And if you think that it couldn’t get any better, you have to brace yourself for the miraculously conceived and executed (Mr Huebner) composition “Yoruban Fantasy”. The crowning glory, however, could well be “Buey Viejo” which features a recitation by the legendary Cuban poet, Mappy Torres. This is a flawless production which not only reiterates that Mr Huebner is a prodigious musician with a tremendous capacity for composition and a humanist worldview. One can hardly hold one’s breath for what is to come next from the man who calls himself “El Violin Latino”.
Track list – 1: Equinox; 2: Obsesión; 3: Los Soñadores; 4: Cuban Blues; 5: Para Un Mejor Mundo; 6: Zapato Apretao; 7: Llanto De Luna; 8: South Sudan; 9: Tu, Mi Delirio; 10: Yoruban Fantasy; 11: Buey Viejo
Personnel – Gregor Huebner: electric and acoustic violin, octave violin and vocals; Yumarya: voice; Klaus Mueller: piano; John Benitez: bass; Louie Bauzo: congas, bongo, quinto and caja; Jerome Goldschmidt: congas, batá, cachimbo and vocals; Ludwig Afonso: drums; Edmar Castañeda: harp (5); Karen Joseph: flute (6, 7, 11); Ruben Rodriguez: bass (6, 7, 11); Johnny Almendra: timbales (6, 7, 11); Mappy Torres: vocals (11)
Released – 2019
Label – ZOHO Music (ZM201901)
GREGOR HUEBNER/Los Sonadores El Violin Latino V. 3: In which we find Latin jazz having it’s civil rights jazz moment in that this is jazz driven by politics that comes out solely in the music. Fired by fiery, passionate playing, you can hear the tenor of the times reflected in the strings and the accompaniment. Certainly look no further if you want music that’s full blooded and direct. Hot stuff that won’t be used to cool off hot times and totally well done.
By Dick Metcalf, Contemporary Fusion Reviews
Gregor created this distinctively different Latin jazz album specifically in honor of the generation of immigrants known as the “dreamers”, and as you’ll see and hear in the video below of the title track, “Los Sonadores/Dreamers”, it’s one of the most approachable and memorable pieces of Latin jazz you will ever hear…
Gregor assembled a huge cast of players and singers for this release, which you can see on the ZoHo page for the album.
The group’s performance on Coltrane’s “Equinox” is totally stunning; full of life & groove, it will have you up & dancing ’round the floor for it’s full five minute length (& then, of course, you’ll be hitting “replay” numerous times)!
Gregor and his players also keep the “key ingredient” of jazz at the forefront on pieces like the joyful “Zapato Apretao” (the shoe is tight)… wonderful flute work from Karen Joseph on this lively tune.
The scintillating rhythms on “Yoruban Fantasy” made it my (absolute) personal favorite of the eleven performances on the album… Gregor’s violin just ROCKS IT on this piece… I predict you will be hearing this in regular rotations on jazz stations across the globe!
I give Gregor and his high-talent, high-energy players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this superb release. Get more information on the ZoHo page for the album. Rotcod Zzaj