CD Review: Rene Kroemer, No One Here.

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German pianist Rene Kroemer’s latest release, “No One Here,” is set to make its full debut on October 11, 2024, through the German label Mons Records. In an innovative approach to album release, particularly for the jazz genre, Kroemer has opted to unveil the album track by track on streaming platforms, beginning May 24, 2024. This strategy, while unconventional, aligns well with contemporary music consumption habits on digital platforms.

The album features 12 tracks, predominantly recorded in a trio format. Joining Kroemer on piano are Nico Brandenburg on double bass and Marcus Moeller on drums. The repertoire is a blend of timeless standards and three original compositions by Kroemer, including the title track “No One Here.”

A notable addition to the core trio is harmonica player Konstantin Reinfeld, who appears on half of the album’s tracks. Reinfeld, no stranger to the European jazz scene, brings an additional dimension to the trio’s sound. His presence on the album adds a distinctive voice that complements the ensemble’s overall texture.

The album opens with “The Old Country,” a composition by Nat Adderley and Curtis Lewis, first recorded on Cannonball Adderley’s classic album with Nancy Wilson in 1961. Kroemer’s rendition begins with an extended solo piano exposition before transitioning into a medium swing interpretation. In the liner notes, Kroemer mentions reharmonizing the piece and providing an extensive free intro, expressing his preference for building long arcs of tension. He considers it an ideal opener for both concerts and this CD.

“Bei dir war es immer so schön” introduces Konstantin Reinfeld to the ensemble. The track opens with a funk feel before shifting to a straight-eight medium tempo. Reinfeld’s unique style blends seamlessly with Kroemer’s, resulting in solos that float effortlessly over the rhythmic foundation. Kroemer notes that this 1940 melody by Theo Mackeben carries a sweet melancholy without seeming kitschy. The reimagined changes give it a more modern harmonic basis, allowing the lyrical qualities of the harmonica to shine.

“Franka,” Kroemer’s first original composition on the album, is a straightforward ballad featuring a strong melodic solo from bassist Nico Brandenburg. George Shearing’s classic “Lullaby of Birdland” follows, with Brandenburg and Kroemer sharing the theme. Taken at an easy medium tempo, the track showcases a noteworthy solo by Kroemer. The pianist mentions that this arrangement slightly alienates the theme and features charming dialogues between piano and bass.

“Digga!” the second original composition, is rooted in a blues progression with a feel reminiscent of classic Cannonball Adderley albums from the late 1960s. Konstantin Reinfeld delivers a standout performance on this track. Kroemer explains that he drew the title from youth slang, feeling it somehow fit the piece’s character.



Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” is interpreted as a slow, lilting blues. Kroemer expresses his desire to record this melody in a bluesy ballad feel with ample space. He notes that the harmonica and piano share the theme and improvisation, while the rhythm section provides a distinctive foundation. Lulu’s Back in Town” stands out with its second-line feel, showcasing Kroemer’s honed stride piano skills. The pianist describes this as a “first take” full of joy and energy, encouraging listeners to dance.

Harold Arlen’s well-trodden classic “Over the Rainbow” follows as the second ballad on the album, played with notable sensitivity. Kroemer mentions that although he had previously recorded this piece on a solo CD in 2020, he wanted to revisit it in a trio format, including a long, freely improvised piano introduction.

“Estate” presents a more modern and open harmonic approach, emerging as one of the album’s highlights. Kroemer notes that this composition by Italian singer and pianist Bruno Martino continues the intimate atmosphere established by “Over the Rainbow.” He emphasizes how the open Latin feel allows the colors of all four instruments to emerge intensely.

The title track, “No One Here,” is a gentle jazz waltz that the trio performs with finesse, reminiscent of the great Bill Evans trios of the 1960s. I particularly enjoyed the bass solo on this track. Kroemer reveals that while the title was chosen somewhat randomly, he now associates it with a meditative state of emptiness and presence.

“Bye Bye Blackbird” opens with a contrapuntal take on the melody played by Reinfeld and Kroemer before transitioning to a straight-ahead swing feel. Kroemer shares that he wrote this arrangement over 25 years ago while studying, recently rediscovering and developing it further for this recording.

The album concludes with Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere,” a fitting choice to round out the collection. Kroemer considers this composition, like “Over the Rainbow,” one of his absolute favorites. He mentions rewriting the arrangement for quartet specifically for this recording.

In the liner notes to the album Kroemer mentions that the creative process for “No One Here” was marked by both long-term preparation and spontaneous inspiration. He candidly describes his struggle with decision-making and inspiration just days before recording, highlighting the tension between conscious effort and intuitive creativity. This internal conflict ultimately shaped the album’s diverse track list and emotional depth.

The recording process became an introspective journey for Kroemer, forcing him to confront his artistic strengths and vulnerabilities. This self-examination is evident in the album’s nuanced interpretations of standards and the personal nature of his original compositions. The result is a collection that feels both carefully crafted and authentically spontaneous.

Kroemer’s philosophical approach to music-making, viewing each moment as a consequence of past experiences leading to future ones, is reflected in the album’s cohesive narrative arc. Despite the varied styles and tempos, there’s a sense of continuity that binds the tracks together.

In assessing “No One Here,” I can say this album is exceptionally well-played and will appeal to a broad audience. The mix of standards and original compositions provides a balanced listening experience, showcasing Kroemer’s skills as both an interpreter and composer. The inclusion of Konstantin Reinfeld on several tracks adds a unique flavor to the album, his harmonica work blending well with the trio and providing an additional voice that enhances the overall sound. The varied tempos and styles across the album – from swinging standards to gentle ballads and more modern-feeling originals – demonstrate the ensemble’s versatility and Kroemer’s range as a pianist and arranger.

Particularly noteworthy are the original compositions, which hold their own alongside the well-known standards. “Franka” and “No One Here” showcase Kroemer’s ability to craft melodic, emotionally resonant pieces, while “Digga!” demonstrates his capacity to channel the spirit of classic jazz recordings while maintaining a contemporary feel.

In conclusion, “No One Here” presents itself as a solid addition to the contemporary jazz landscape. While it may not break new ground stylistically, it offers a well-crafted, thoughtfully arranged, and skillfully performed collection of tracks that should satisfy both jazz aficionados and casual listeners alike. Rene Kroemer’s deep respect for jazz tradition, combined with his personal touch in arrangements and original compositions, results in an album that feels both familiar and fresh. The inclusion of Konstantin Reinfeld on several tracks adds an interesting dimension to the trio format, creating a sonic palette that distinguishes this release from other piano trio recordings.

The first five single releases (Tracks 1 through 5) have already been released with “Lulu´s back in town” set for release on the 19th of July. The rest of the tracks will be drip released on all major streaming platforms leading up to the full album release on October 11th.

Rene Kroemer – piano | Konstantin Reinfeld – Harmonica (on Track 2,5,6,9,11,12) | Nico Brandenburg – Double Bass | Marcus Moeller – Drums

Track Listing:
1. The old country | 2. Bei dir war es immer so schön | 3. Franka | 4. Lullaby of Birdland | 5. Digga! | 6. Mood Indigo | 7. Lulu´s back in town | 8. Over the rainbow | 9. Estate | 10. No one here | 11. Bye Bye Blackbird | 12. Somewhere.

Release Date: 11 October 2024 (CD Release)
Format: CD | Streaming
Label: Mons Records


Last modified: July 15, 2024