Hannes Riepler: The Brave (2012)
The British music scene produces more than its share of homegrown talent these days, young players who for the most part emerge from the country's music colleges into the professional scene and then, not content with waiting for the phone to ring, go out and create many of their own gigging and recording opportunities. It's a scene that, perhaps because of this can-do attitude, attracts many additional players from around the globe. One such performer is the Austrian guitarist Hannes Riepler, who arrived in London in 2006. The Brave, his debut as a leader, features original tunes recorded in April, 2010 and played with the kind of panache that marks him out as one of the most enjoyable guitarists on the contemporary scene.
The set's quintet of performers is just about as strong as can be. Tom Challenger, tenor saxophonist with Ma and Outhouse, joins Riepler on the frontline: Mercury Music Prize nominee Kit Downes, one of the most creative of the current crop of pianists, bassist Ryan Trebilcock and drummer Jon Scott form a tight, energetic rhythm section.
If there's one word that most appropriately describes the music on The Brave, it is: "flowing." Riepler and Scott are crucial to this sense of fluidity Riepler's warm tone, deft single-note patterns and sustained chords combine with Scott's inventively fluid percussion to lend the tunes the drive and forward movement that are crucial in maintaining this feel.
"Summer Song" recreates the atmosphere of warm, languid, July daysthe movement is there, but the pace slows as the weather heats up. "The Insomniac" is also on the move, but there's an initial reluctanceChallenger's tenor and Downes' piano suggest the insomniac's frustration before the pace increases thanks to Riepler and Scott. Midway through the tune, the titular individual has seemingly given up on the prospect of sleep and dives into a flurry of activity. "Up," a rich, mid-tempo and upbeat number, features one of Riepler's finest solos of the set. Downes and Riepler both contribute beautifully judged solos to "Down Only," reflecting the tune's rather somber title. "Tyrol, Tyrol" is a lengthy, free-flowing tune which gives Downes and Challenger a chance to stretch out as the album closes.
The Brave is a strong debut, an album of accessible music played not only with impressive technical skill but also a welcome melodic sensibility and emotional connection to the compositions. Riepler's development as a player and writer has a firm foundation on which to build.
Track Listing: The Brave; Up; Now Do It; Summer Song; The Insomniac; Down Only; Pee Wee Killa Instinct; Tyrol, Tyrol.
Personnel: Hannes Riepler: guitar; Tom Challenger: tenor saxophone; Kit Downes: piano; Ryan Trebilcock: double bass; Jon Scott: drums.