Eric Hofbauer Jazz Guitarist / Composer / Educator

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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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