Eric Hofbauer Jazz Guitarist / Composer / Educator

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Purchase Links for Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1 & 2

There is still time to place a holiday order of the EHQ’s critically acclaimed “Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1 & 2″ recordings. Click the links below for direct retail access. Orders made by 12/20 will arrive before Christmas. Happy holidays and thanks for your support!

AMAZON – Volume 1 and 2 in package deal

BAND CAMP – individual CDs or digital version

 

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“If This is Prehistoric, It’s Also Timeless” – More Press for the EHQ
"If This is Prehistoric, It's Also Timeless" - More Press for the EHQ

In the last week or so since our NPR feature piece (see post below) on Fresh Air, there has been a wonderful windfall of overwhelmingly positive, dare I say it, rave, reviews for the Eric Hofbauer Quintet’s releases “Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1 & 2″. Below are some highlights, including an appearance on the culture journal, Burning Ambulance’s “Best 25 Jazz Records of 2014″ list.

images“An interesting blend of old-timey music, classical, and avant-garde clatter and squeak…both provide opportunities for the various members of the group to take extended, introspective solos, or dialogue with each other, as the mood dictates”
- Burning Ambulance Top 25 of 2014 (#14)

“It’s really hard to choose one volume over the other so be wise and purchase both.  This music will bring you hours of pleasure as you listen to the care and attention Eric Hofbauer put into making “The Rite of Spring” and “Quintet for the End of Time.” While it’s clear the Quintet can and does play with great virtuosity, this music is also emotionally strong and heartfelt.” – Richard Kamins, Step Tempest Blog

“Boston-based, top tier guitarist eric hofbauer uses his quintet to shake the cobwebs out of birthing the universe” – Ann Porotti, WTJU 91.1FM UVA Radio

“There are so many interesting cross-references at work here, Hofbauer seems to have thought of everything. First of all, the sound and approach of this ensemble often sounds a bit like 1920s jazz, which would have been the era in which “Rite” could have been first played as an experimental jazz piece. None of this is obvious or ‘museum like’ as Hofbauer also draws on many modern elements such as free improvisation and more. The 20s sound of the ensemble and the modern NYC eclectic influences blend seamlessly, the end result is a piece that fits well with the music of today… Eric Hofbauer’s version of “The Rite of Spring” never gets boring or predictable, the main melodies of the piece come and go while they mix with all manner of diversions and excursions. Eric is able to accent the modernist elements of this piece, both in the context of its time period and today, and show the connecting similarities in both decades. This rendition really brings new life to Stravinsky’s creation, and I think Igor would have enjoyed hearing it. The added plus is Hofbauer’s guitar playing, which somehow can capture some of the color of Stravinsky’s original orchestrations.”
Jazz Music Archives.com

“Guitarist Eric Hofbauer does things his own way, in ways other people generally don’t. But he steps further beyond the expected these days with a two-volume offering that takes some contemporary 20th century milestone classical compositions and arranges them for a jazz-centered quintet….The band has their hands full realizing the motifs and getting loose and free improvisationally, or even at times sounding like an early jazz band and/or Duke’s Jungle period outfit, too. Much credit goes to the arrangements/arranger, and to the sextet itself also for their creative transformations.” – Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog

“As with volume one Eric does not give you an end-to-end transcription of the original work, but instead selects key motives and sections, giving the themes to various instrumental combinations and slanting the phrases at times for a more jazzed reading. The Messiaen really lends itself to this treatment, and Eric makes much out of the music so that it convinces fully as jazz for today. There are certain passages of the work that sound so boppish you’d think Messiaen meant them that way. Kudos to Hofbauer for hearing the potential and realizing it so well. Eric, Jerry and Todd get some really interesting solos going too, at times simultaneously. It is no easy feat to pull this off, but Hofbauer and company do so with style, swinging heat and smarts. This one brings it on home! Many stars, if I rated things that way. Highly recommended! – Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog

“Perhaps the most adventurous attempt at a renaissance fusion of what has been referred to as “third stream” music… Jazz and classical have an unspoken wall of theory placed between them. Guitarist Eric Hofbauer has just shattered the wall and raised the bar for modern composition across the board….The Eric Hofbauer Quintet is magnificent… To refer to Hofbauer as a modern if not impressionistic virtuoso is not a stretch, and the quintet is first rate with the amazing ability to perform with a sound twice their size. (These recordings) are the personification of passion on a shiny silver disc.
Brent Black, Critical Jazz (Bop-n-Jazz)

“Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1 & 2″ are available at Amazon and Band Camp.

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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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