Eric Hofbauer Jazz Guitarist / Composer / Educator

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Awaken the Dragon – The Return of Solo Guitar & Garrison Fewell

I have taken a long break from solo guitar. Hell, I have taken a long break from posting a blog on ye olde home page. Life sometimes has a way of creating obstacles which prevent getting everything done on that “to do” list. It began in summer of 2015 when my best friend, Garrison Fewell, passed away of cancer. He was a such a positive force in my personal and professional life. His encouragement, wisdom, compassion and creative camaraderie has been sorely missed and debilitatingly so. We (several of Garrison’s Boston musician friends/collaborators) gave a wonderful tribute concert in November ’15 called Invisible Resonance: The Music of Garrison Fewell. You can watch the entire concert on the linked Youtube channel. Some powerful stuff from all the musicians involved. After that, I lost focus, maybe even lost my faith a bit, in music, in “jazz” in my purpose as a guitarist and educator. I was in “lower my head and just get through the day” mode most of the fall and winter. Yet there were a few bright spots, although I was not too motivated to hustle up gigs and play for, or with, anyone, I was practicing. Not just the usual amount for my schedule, I was playing WAY more than usual, logging in undergrad or grad school type hours on the instrument. Out of that work and solitude, I heard a voice. The voice of my most ardent and encouraging fan of my solo guitar playing… Garrison. The man who once told me there were only two people who scared him on the guitar, Joe Pass and myself, spoke to me in the contemplative silences between the resonating strings… “Keep Going” he said, “This is what you need to do”.  It was obvious! I had been ignoring one of my favorite things to do (playing solo) in music because I was having a 6 month long pity party for myself that no one gave a fuck about. It was only hurting me and my career and certainly not celebrating or honoring my dear friend in the process either! Well, Garrison’s voice has poked the dragon awake. Not only did I decide to make another solo recording, I was going to play to honor and celebrate Garrison’s music and life with it. So in early Jan ’16 I piggy backed onto a pre-existing session (the EHQ’s Prehistoric Jazz Vol. 3: Ives’ Three Places in New England… more on that album and how the band crushed it! soon). So Friday night at Rotary Records in Springfield MA, my main man Warren and I cut the new solo album. The next morning the EHQ swung by and we cut PJ V3. Basically in about 22 hours I made two albums of music. Sometimes it still perplexes me how I could play so much without my hands  or my focus, giving out. But… I swear he was there, as always, encouraging me with positive feelings and love. There are several cuts on the solo album where I heard two guitar when I was playing, like he was there and we were digging into one of our celestially synchronized searches. He used to alway remark when we played duo that he could not discern who was playing what, even when he watched his own fingers. We would listen back to a concert and he would say “who played that, I don’t remember playing that? I don’t even know what that is”. Yet it was his playing he was listening to, but we had a way of pulling much more out of each other than we could pull out of ourselves either solo or in other groups. This may sound stupid, but that night in the studio, cutting my tribute to Garrison, it was not a solo recording, it was duo all the way because his spirit was still pulling MORE out of me than I even could on my own. Ask Warren how many times I said “who played that? I don’t remember playing that?” when we listened to the play back. I’m very honored to have been given a chance to record music by and inspired by Garrison Fewell. I recorded his compositions “Blues Update” and “Ayleristic” as well as “Let’s Cool One” which was a favorite of our’s from our duo CD “The Lady of Khartoum”. I also did some improvisations with Garrison in my heart and ear (and fingers) as well as a few other tunes that spoke to me personally about loss, friendship, and hope. It turns out this album is deeply rooted in the blues, there are several blues based tunes on it, but even the free pieces speak using that forked tongue of joy and pain. It is fitting I feel. I will post updates and little sneak peeks of the music on this blog in the next few weeks and months. See when you poke a dragon awake it takes time to get that thing up and about. Those slow thighs take time to raise that body up, there are sparks in the belly that need to be stoked before the dragon’s head raises up and fire-breathing begins. Little steps first, get that mix right, book a gig or two, work on the packaging… all those things are “slouching towards Bethlehem” (as Yeats says). Soon the dragon will be in full flight (with more concerts, tributes, tours, CDs etc etc.) for now I have a wonderful video from the studio of “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” and some concert footage of “Cult of Personality” and “Let’s Cool One” and Garrison’s “Ayleristic” from Feb. ’16. Thank you Garrison for waking the dragon, I promise not to let you down.

“Cult of Personality” performed by Eric Hofbauer from Infinite Momentum on Vimeo.

“Let’s Cool One” and “Ayleristic” :: Eric Hofbauer from Infinite Momentum on Vimeo.

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