Eric Hofbauer Jazz Guitarist / Composer / Educator

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New Reviews and Palindromes

Since the release of LEVEL, there have been some wonderful and interesting reviews of the work. While some have addressed the overt ‘avant-guard’ tendencies of the recording, some have, almost inexplicably, insisted just the opposite – that it is quite traditional. Truth is, they are both correct. But the point is not to just comment on one or the other stylistic approach, but to tackle both together. The theme of LEVEL IS duality and the music finds many ways to explore that. Both the BBC and Somethin’ Else are recent reviews that really understand and clearly explain the concept of duality in the music. I know, ‘concept’ recordings are rare these days. Call me a romantic, but I still believe that jazz music and improvisation is a narrative. For this record I use two (sometimes portrayed as opposing) ‘dialects’ of modern improvisation to tell the story, the swing/bebop dialect and the free/post-tonal dialect. The liner notes express my point about duality in modern life and music by explaining that it ‘…explores the beautiful collision of jazz styles and how they compliment each other. Form, formlessness, harmony, open areas, time, and no time – they all work together, proving that style delineations in jazz, like in life, are limiting’. Some tracks are ‘avant-garde’ and some traditional and some compositions explore both simultaneously.

Take for example, Murder For A Jar Of Red Rum.
The title is a palindrome and so is the form and some of the intervallic and rhythmic elements of the melodies, palindromes being, of course, linear expressions of duality ( I know it is real music geek stuff but bear with me). As the piece unfolds, the avant/trad. duality is very clear even in a cursory pass through the track. The piece starts out with a specific, and maybe a little dissonant or ‘avant-garde’, sonic texture with brush swirl, acro bass, guitar harmonic, and sax multi-phonics (start of track-1:30), which balances with a bebop/cool contrapunctual melody that follows (1:30-2:15). Then a completely sound/texture based free improvisation starting with the solo bass contrasts that (2:15-4:15). Next, my favorite part, the two approaches collide with a freely improvised sax solo/collective improv over the form and chord changes of Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘black bottom stomp’ (4:15-4:47)(a moment I call ‘Albert Ayler meets Dixieland’). Finally we return to a short recapitulation of both the bebop melody and the starting sonic texture (4:57-end). There is more in the tune as well, but I can’t give away too much of the story, then it is less fun to listen to and create your own sonic narrative in your mind’s ear. I hope you enjoy the music and thank you BBC and Somethin’ Else for your attention to detail and thoughtful interpretations of the recording.

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