Eric Hofbauer Jazz Guitarist / Composer / Educator

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Eric Hofbauer Quintet’s ‘Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1 & 2′ on NPR’s Fresh Air

Jazz writer Kevin Whitehead reviews ‘Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1 & 2′ on NPR’s Fresh Air. I am very honored to have had these recording, which features my recompositions of ‘The Rite of Spring’ and ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ featured on Fresh Air. The review is particularly poetic and filled with imagery which I believe delves deeply into the narrative of these recordings. I am proud to share this recording and these CDs with you. Visit the NPR Site. or listen below.

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Eric Hofbauer Quintet’s “Prehistoric Jazz – Volume 1 and 2″ Released Oct. 28th

Exciting NPJVol1ews, CNM (Creative Nation Music) has released the Eric Hofbauer Quintet’s debut recordings “Prehistoric Jazz -Volume 1 & Volume 2″. Volume 1 features my arrangement of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and Volume 2 features my arrangement of Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of PJVol2Time”. Both feature the quintet of myself, Jerry Sabatini on trumpet, Todd Brunel on clarinet, Junko Fujiwara on cello and Curt Newton on drums. We recorded both CD’s on an early spring weekend in April and we are excited to have them simultaneously released on Oct. 28th. Both are available for sale sold as a set on AMAZON. Or visit the BAND PAGE to buy them separately or as a digital download from bandcamp.com. This release is something of a collector’s edition. It has wonderfully insightful liner notes by the world class jazz writer and historian, David Adler. The brilliant and talented Warren Amerman (Rotary Records) did the recording, mixing and mastering (and these discs sound incredible! you really have to hear them to believe it). My designer extraordinaire, Benjamin Shaykin (who has designed several CNM classic releases including American Fear and American Grace) did the design. What perhaps makes this really a collector’s release is the packaging. Dan Wood (a colleague of Ben’s) did a letter press printing for
the liner notes and packaging. Letter press is the OLD way of printing using presses, typesetting and inks. The packaging is locally made (Providence RI) and hand-crafted. Each one is a wonderfully textured mini work of art. It is an unique way to package such a personally meaningful project. I, and the whole quintet are excited and honored to share this music with you all. Enjoy! and Thank you!

PJVol2insideLPJVOl2insideR

PJVol1insideRPJVol1insideL

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BOLT’s “Shuffle” CD is out now on Driff Records

Boston based quartet BOLT  (featuring Jorrit Dijkstra on sax and lyricon, Junko Fujiwara on cello, Eric Rosenthal on drums and percussion and myself on guitar) has been working locally since 2011, focusing solely on free improvisation. Using the distinctive timbral combination of two stringed instruments with the lyricon (an analog electronic wind synthesizer from the 1970s) saxophone and percussion, BOLT’s group sound balances anywhere between the energy-orgies of free jazz and the sparse soundscapes of electronic minimalist improv. In the more expressive moments of a BOLT set the music hints to Boston’s influential master of microtonal improvisation Joe Maneri. In the more quiet introspective moments one could here a modern day extension of the late 1940’s experiments with free improvisation of the Tristano school. 

This recording was deliberately conceived to create a different listening experience than a live concert. The 19 takes of this CD were carefully chosen from 36 improvised pieces recorded during a recording session in the summer of 2013. Shuffling the pieces in random order gives the listener a fresh perspective on the music every single time, adding an aleatoric, and more compositional element to the music.

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Curating Jazz Playlists on Songza!

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Eric Hofbauer Quintet at the Church of the Advent Library Concert Series, 2/7/14

On Feb. 7, 2014 the Eric Hofbauer Quintet performed as part of Matt Samolis’ Church of the Advent Library Concert Series. Matt’s single camera shot frames the band nicely in the confines of the brick lined library stage. The sound quality is good and the full house gave us some wonderful energy to work with. These videos capture the band in command of this demanding material in such a way that the written material and improvisations blur into a fully realized expression of individuality and dialogue. Its my favorite footage of us to date.

CLIP #1: “A Kiss Of The Earth” – “Procession Of The Oldest And Wisest One”

CLIP #2: “The Kiss Of The Earth” – “The Exalted Sacrifice”

CLIP #3: “Mystic Circle Of The Young Girls” – “Sacrificial Dance”

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‘American Grace’ Solo Tour Reflections

The Autumn 2013 solo tour has ended. It was a grand adventure, as expected. I got to play in NYC and play a set of Steve Lacy tunes with Josh Sinton and Tomas Fujiwara of Ideal Bread. Then I got to catch up with my old teacher and good friend Robert Ferrazza at Oberlin, as I headed out to Chicago. Once there I played with two of my favorite improvisers on the scene today. Tim Daisy and Dave Rempis, we did a trio set and the rumor from some of the musicians in attendance was that our set was some of the best improvising they have heard all year. I am honored and look forward to playing with them again next year! I finished the tour in Toledo OH at the Robinwood Concert House. What an awesome scene!!! It was my favorite gig of the tour, Gabe, who runs the series is a passionate curator, producer and musician, the jazz and improvisation scene needs more amazing people like Gabe in it. The sets were a blast the crowd was deep into it and we stayed up into the wee hours talking about art and philosophy and life… its the kind of experience you live for on the road, its why I do this music thing… to connect with people in honest and revealing ways. I look forward to touring out to the midwest again next year.. it will become a yearly thing for me now.

I am very lucky to have some of my playing documented from the tour. I have added two  clips that were shot by my good friend and exquisite drummer extraordinaire Curt Newton (fellow member of the Eric Hofbuaer Quintet – Prehistoric Jazz project). It is from the Boston show at the Lily Pad on Sept 18th. I played straight through, a 45 minute solo set, improvising from one place to another, hitting various themes and tunes along the way. Video #1 features Dear Prudence (The Beatles) into West End Blues (Joe Oliver) into Dewey Square (Charlie Parker)Video #2 features a tune of mine, Pocket Chops into the folk tune by Blind Willie Johnson, God Moves On The Water. 

Video #1

Eric Hofbauer solo @ Lily Pad part 1

Video #2

Eric Hofbauer solo @ Lily Pad part 2

I was also lucky to get some print attention while on tour as well with some great preview and review articles in outlets such as The Village Voice, The Chicago Reader and Fuse Jazz Review. I have posted a few quotes and links to the complete articles. My next goal for the solo tour is to take it out to the west coast in the spring… time to start booking!!!    A profound THANK YOU! to all who came out to see my shows, buy CDs,  and support the music.

“An enthusiastic and attentive audience showed up at the Boston area stop of our own Eric Hofbauer 8/18 at the Lily Pad during his tour of the Northeast and Midwest.  Being attentive was the smart thing to do, whether one focusses on Eric’s remarkable technical prowess or the far more remarkable music he makes.  Being a Hofbauer guitar fan, I have witnessed his solo work several times over the years and always with great pleasure.  This certainly was his most impressive outing.” – Boston Jazz Scene (full review)

“There’s something deceptive about the informality the Boston guitarist brings to his solo work: On the recent American Grace he makes dabbling a fine art.” – Jim Macnie, Village Voice (full preview)

“Hofbauer is a terrific player, treating original tunes, jazz standards, modern pop-rock songs, and blues with a distinctive touch; gnarled, melodic, spikey, and dense. There’s a deep affection for the material inherent in his interpretations, and that familiarity and ease allows him to take some of the tunes to surprising places.” – Peter Margasak, The Chicago Reader (full preview)

“Eric Hofbauer doesn’t play his big hollow-bodied Guild guitar very loud — at least not by today’s standards — but few people get more sheer guitar sound out of their instruments.” – Jon Garelick, The Fuse Jazz Review (full review)

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Prehistoric Jazz: The Rite & 100 Years Of Revolution

On May 29th, the centennial of Stravinsky’s premiere of ‘Le Sacre Du Printemps’, I premiered an arrangement of that epic piece for improvising jazz quintet on a concert entitled, ‘Pre-historic Jazz: The Rite and 100 Years of Revolution’

The concert title was taken from a video clip of Leonard Bernstein conducting a studio orchestra from the 1980s. In it he gently chastises one of the percussionists for not playing with the proper feeling. He refers to ‘The Rite’ as prehistoric jazz and then implores the student to play with that type of emotion… ‘I don’t feel the jazz… man’ Bernstein exclaims.

Bernstein: Stravinsky RITE OF SPRING Rehearsal

For me, feeling ‘the jazz’ was my primary point of reference and my entre into this masterwork of shifting rhythms and polytonality back when I first heard it as a student. Maybe it was all those nights at Oberlin where I slept with the score under my pillow so it was the first thing I looked at when the day began and the last thing at its end. Maybe, during those same student years, it was the lucid dreams I had in the library (usually after a far too heavy dinner) where the opening Bassoon line turned into phrases in French, for some reason, and the rest of the opening winds were a chorus of other languages, some real some fictional. Regardless, I always approached it as a piece with powerful pulse, surprising syncopation and harmonies I translated in my mind to jazz theory lexicon. In short, I always heard ‘The Rite’ as jazz… just without the improvisation.

I am not alone as a jazz musician enchanted and bedeviled by Stravinsky’s works. For decades jazz musicians have quoted from and attempted to adapt Igor’s works, especially ‘The Rite’ for various ensembles (most recently The Bad Plus and The Mobtown Modern Big Band). For a very detailed account of the history between jazz and Stravinsky and various ‘third stream’ attempts to reconcile both traditions, please read Stu Vandermark’s excellent blog about my ‘Prehistoric-Jazz’ concert.

In working on my conception of ‘The Rite’ I chose not to get caught up in the history, the past and recent attempts at ‘jazz interpretation’, the semantics of style or genre. I went with my intuition, and my ear… and after hearing Lenny call ‘The Rite’ prehistoric jazz; I had the validated confidence to begin my arrangement.

It is my general conclusion that most of the sections of ‘The Rite’ begin with a clear melody and a distinct combination of pulse, rhythm and harmony, which all start to unravel or become obfuscated by theme and variation, increased density, orchestration etc. That’s all nothing new, of course, but that structure is also the foundation of jazz once you add improvisation to the list of deconstructing elements. With this in mind, most sections to my ears became a sort of lead sheet where at some point a collective theme and variation (riffing to an extent) took over, usually over a strong pulse or vamp. Case in point, the first section, A Kiss Of The Earth. After the iconic Bassoon opening with a small wind chorus of support, the strings enter with an almost inebriated triplet line that acts as a riff or vamp that establishes a clear pulse. Once that is steady, the theme and variation, riffing, and increased density begins. A few main themes pop out, but most parts play the roll of adding voices to a big collective conversation. This moment, I thought, could be improvised with similar effect. So with all sections I set about the task of distilling it down to the main theme or themes, the prominent harmonic colors and perhaps most importantly the primary rhythmic structures. Stravinsky loves pulse and it always grooves in its own way, always syncopated, always surprising with odd phrase lengths and shifting meters. But… what happens if you take the primary rhythmic figures, which is the core of the groove, and even them out to phrases that repeat with more regularity? Vamps, bass lines, rhythmic shouts choruses, even forms (for example the 12 bar blues on Mystic Circle Of The Young Girls which was not imposed by my hand but directed to me by Igor’s melody and harmonic suggestions) rise to the surface as solo or group improvisation sections.

Prehistoric Jazz; The Rite & 100 Years Of Revolution Part 1

The same spirit of distillation behind the melodic and formal conceptions inspired the orchestration for my arrangement. Each family of the orchestra was represented. The drums covered the percussion, cello covered the strings, and clarinet and trumpet covered the woodwinds and brass respectively. The guitar plays a curious role in the arrangement. Like much of my group work either as a composer or performer the purpose of the guitar is to highlight, support and glue together various aspects of the music. By not fitting into a specific family of orchestral instruments I play the role of rogue interloper, assimilating into each family when they need an extra voice, or gluing components together by providing a rich harmonic palette of chords. This I believe is a very American thing to do with the music, and the arch top guitar, a completely American invention, is crucial to transforming ‘The Rite’ to prehistoric jazz in sound and style. You will notice, there is rarely a guitar melody or feature or solo, the bulk of the guitar work is teaming up with drums for hits, joining the cello on a vamp, providing a bass line and chords for a horn solo etc.

Prehistoric Jazz; The Rite & 100 Years Of Revolution Part 2

Speaking of chords, Stravinsky’s works are known for being extremely dissonant, polytonal, chromatic… chaotic, crazy etc. Yet, I found it logical, almost easy, how his harmonic palette could be defined in jazz harmonic theory terms. For example the famous pounding chords in ‘Dance Of The Adolescents’, the much revered Eb7 over E major cluster has for 100 years been an example of extreme dissonance and an abandonment of tonality. My jazz training suggests to me a different story. What if the E major is the tri-tone sub of Bb (a common jazz chord substitution since the bebop days of the 40’s) and like the blues or Thelonious Monk, Igor is treating the Eb7 as a tonic. It is then just a common V-I progression but simultaneously. Maybe what Stravinsky is suggesting in this moment is not the end of tonality but the beginning of a new understanding of tonality… where tonic and dominant, rest and motion, consonance and dissonance are ONE. Bernstein took that view of Stravinsky in his Norton lectures at Harvard, calling his work, ‘the poetry of earth’ hinting that the balanced duality of Stravinsky’s poly-tonal language (Lenny defined Ives by this ‘poetry of earth’ term too) was a natural progression of music and therefore expressed more humanity than serial 12-tone music (those are fighin’ words to some). I digress… however, the point remains ‘The Rite’ is full of harmonic moments that translate to ‘jazz chords’. I found flat 9th, sharp #11, minor 9th chords, tri-tone substitutions, pentatonic scale melodies played over modal harmony. Sometimes this stuff was layered on top of one another, more obfuscation, but often it is possible to pick it up by ear and hear the lingua franca between Igor’s chords and historic jazz languages such as Swing, Bebop, Modal and even Post-Modal. For advanced jazz geeks there are hints of the so-called ‘Giant Steps’ changes (presented poly-tonally) and, for those who study guitar and composition with me, there are a plethora of examples of ‘The Diamond’ (my own harmonic theory of chord substitution and poly-tonal improvising in jazz, synthesized in part from Bartok’s Axis System, Coltrane changes, which weren’t his originally anyway, and other sources) on display in ‘The Rite’.

I could go on and on about this piece and my arrangement… Things I have left out, a discussion on the use of space, the role of timbre and articulation in transforming it to the jazz language and the importance of synthesis, deconstruction and the use of all the jazz vocabularies (including the Post-Bop aka Free Jazz vocab) to successfully evolve ‘Le Sacre’ a European masterpiece to ‘The Rite’ a piece of American music with room for personal expression, malleable interpretation and surprising spontaneity.

The last thing I need to say is that this project wouldn’t be possible without the creative energy and work of the musicians involved. The band members, Todd Brunel on clarinet and bass clarinet, Junko Fujiwara on cello, Curt Newton on drums and Jerry Sabatini on trumpet were chosen not only for their expertise in the realms of improvisation and classical/jazz knowledge but for their individual voices, their nuances, their personality quirks that manifested themselves in sound and imbued my arrangement with authenticity and life. We had time for only three, 2 hour, rehearsals to put this together for the performance. Everyone brought passion and inspiration to the table, we worked hard but had fun too and I think it shows in the video.

Several people has asked me, how I could possibly of had the time to arrange ‘The Rite’ all 14 sections to be exact, between the end of the spring semester (where usually I can’t compose or arrange anything because the ol’ creative juices are diverted towards teaching) and May 29th. Truth be told it only took 20 hours to complete the arrangement, about half of that was brainstorming, listening and sketching… other half was the writing out (spread out in two all-nighters). However, I would argue this arrangement, this project in fact, was 20 years in the making, ever since I first heard ‘Le Sacre Du Printemps’ in the Oberlin library. I hope you truly enjoy the videos. Comments and reactions welcome and if you are a music teacher, department head, concert promoter etc. and would like to had us come play at your school, college or venue, please email me at eric@erichofbauer.com We are excited to share this music experience to audiences around the world online… but we would really love to share it with audiences live.

 

 

 

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‘American Grace’ is Officially Released – The Trilogy is Complete

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I Have A Confession – John Tchicai Memorial Concert Reflections.

I have to make a confession. I wake up almost every morning and decide not to quit playing music. Let me clarify, I decide not to quit playing and teaching music, jazz specially, as a vocation. I know I can’t quit playing my guitar, in the same way I can’t just quit breathing and expect to stay alive. So this creates a conundrum, a duality and a test. Which is interesting because I believe human nature excels in all of those settings.

I suppose what really is happening every morning is an example of faith. I was a double degree student at Oberlin, Jazz and Religion (until I realized I was being redundant), so matters of the spirit have always been central to my personal and artistic missions. The idea of faith in a biblical sense always seemed too distant to me, Job, Abraham and the other Old Testament characters have this weight of the ages, the dust of mythology that disconnects them from much of modern life. In fact, I would argue that modernity prefers ‘blind faith’ in lieu of real faith because it is easy, quick and ready to package and sell.

The very essence of faith for me is the freedom to doubt, to question, to risk not believing in what you have spent your life persuing. To have nakedly faced those choices and risk entropy and still continue on the hard path… Let me tell you my brothers and sisters, weather its dealing with an ailment, the loss of a loved one, struggles with career (in my case the perils of the modern ‘jazz’ career) etc., that is FAITH.

So, each morning I awake and think ‘is this the day I walk away from it all’ and everyday I pass the test and continue on, through the lack of gigs or teaching opportunities, the financial struggles, the failure to get that job, gig, tour, review, grant, big chance to share my passion for music with anyone who will listen.

However, along the way, there are these experiences that just vibrate with faith and validate completely everything in my life up to that moment.

John Tchicai Memorial Concert Pt 1

Case is point. December 19th the night of the memorial concert here in Boston for John Tchicai. I was blessed to befriend John through Garrison Fewell. I was lucky to perform with John in Garrison’s Variable Density Sound Orchestra a few times in NYC and Boston. We all had some memorable musical exchanges as well as some classic conversations accompanied by good food and even better wine.

The week before the concert was shocking, my dear friend and six-string intergalactic sonic soul mate, Garrison was diagnosed with cancer and admitted to the hospital for surgery. This was after several days of severe pain, including one Sunday where we all (Garrison, Todd Brunel, Jerry Sabatini, Curt Newton, Jacob William, Charlie Kohlhase was in absentia, and myself) were rehearsing for the concert. Garrison played through the pain, in fact the music seemed to numb it, at least for the few hours we were working. In this regard, I believe (being a Pythagorean, and somewhat of a mystic in my spare time) music has potential healing properties; that in fact music is an energy (vibrations… its science look it up) that can be used for good or evil. Three thousand years of trance music (from whirling Dervishes, to Gregorian monks, to Coltrane and Sun Ra) can’t be wrong. All music has power and it always has, we just forget it from time to time.

John Tchicai Memorial Concert Pt 2

Ultimately we had to play the concert without the bandleader, but we all rose to the call of the spirit and played from a deep and personal place. A wonderful thing happened that night, as we played this amazing music by our departed friend John Tchicai it was clear that it was a celebration OF a life in music well lived. However, more importantly it became evident that the music was FOR Garrison. The dead don’t need music, the living do, and that night we played to heal one of our own, to heal ourselves, and to feel with every vibration on our fingers, lips and hands what faith is.

John Tchicai Memorial Concert Pt 3

The night ended with cheers and a standing ovation, I believe we all felt something of the mystic power of music that night. Included in this blog are three clips, comprising the entirety of the music portion of the concert. The music speaks for itself. Thank you John for the sonic avenues to traverse and thank you to all the musicians who played that night as conduits of faith.

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CNM Announces Two New Releases – American Grace and Recontradoble

In lieu of the world ending today my little DIY, shoe-string budget, pull yourself up by the boot straps, fly by the seat of your pants, rip the shirt off your back (and any other clothing metaphors) jazz record label, Creative Nation Music is announcing the release of two new CDs, Recontradoble by the Pablo Ablanedo Octet(o) and my own Solo Guitar Trilogy ending opus, American Grace. These two releases are near and dear to my heart, I worked very closely with Pablo (I am a member of the band and helped him in the mixing process etc) and was involved in every step of the process with American Grace. Both CDs would not exist if it were not for crowd-sourcing support by fans, friends and family (such is the world of DIY and independent music these days), which I am very grateful for.

I have posted here music players from the CD’s band camp pages so you can listen to the tracks and/or purchase downloads. Although the actual street dates for these releases are in 2013, I am making available both digital and physical options to purchase (hit the links on the album titles above) for motivated buyers who want to obtain these CDs as ‘pre-release’ specials. The Octet(o), Pablo and I are all very proud of these releases and hope you enjoy them. CD release concerts for both projects will be announced soon.

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