American Fear, Boston-based guitarist/composer Eric Hofbauer’s second recording as a solo guitarist and third under his own name, is the sequel to his 2004 debut, American Vanity (CNM 003). Like that earlier release, American Fear dissects and examines American culture though spontaneous original compositions, stripped-down interpretations of music from the likes of Andrew Hill, Nirvana, Tears for Fears and Van Halen, and eccentric real-time mash-ups of Johnny Cash and Charlie Parker and Fats Waller and Hank Williams. “You might call this a biography of fears,” Hofbauer explains. “I’m examining not only my own fears, but also how fear is reflected and manifested in American culture and society—the fear of death, childhood fears, racial fears, fears about failure and the current political and economic environment, etc. The jazz historian in me finds a lot of fear—and overcoming of fear—in the history of the music, making it perfect for this type of exploration of the human condition. That said, most of this music is fun and playful, and I think fear is a powerful force for creativity, not just a negative. After
you deal with fear, you come to a sense of wonder about yourself and the human condition—and about America, too.”
Quirky and compelling.
—Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes
I thought it was great. I’ve never heard anyone play the guitar like that before. There’s so much going on in there and it’s quite extraordinary to listen to—a lot of tremedous energy and that real self-propelling rhythmic feel as if he had his own built-in rhythm section.
—John Fordham, BBC 3’s Jazz on 3
Hofbauer is one of the most genuinely original guitarists of his generation, capable of renewing the language of jazz guitar with a fresh and iconoclastic approach, but without disrespect to tradition. This distinguishes him from the vast majority of his colleagues, and makes him and his work, worthy of careful consideration.
– Mario Calvitti, All About Jazz Italia
Although “Moose the Mooche-Cash Style” features prepared guitar, with paper-threaded strings that sound like a marimba made with PVC pipes, the rest of the tracks are recorded with an unadorned electric acoustic sound, remarkable for their panchromatic palette of tones and textures: Hofbauer uses damped harmonics, slides, whammied chords, radical dynamic contrasts and register leaps, tickle-scratches and two-handed tapping to color and shade his musical images. For all its variety, drawing on recognizable elements of jazz and other musical traditions, Hofbauer’s voice emerges here unique and distinct, blending the comedic with the tragic—and having some serious fun.
—Tom Greenland, AllAboutJazz-New York
What if a Joe Pass/Marc Ribot/Derek Bailey mutant were to record a solo guitar album thematically based on common fears in modern America? Eric Hofbauer’s American Fear is probably the closest you’ll come to an answer to that question.
—John Garratt, PopMatters.com
Boston, Massachusetts is truly blessed in having Eric Hofbauer as a member of its improvised music community. Over the course of successive releases he has proved himself to be one of the great original voices and this solo guitar recital proves it in spades. He seemingly and effortlessly has forged a highly individual instrumental vocabulary and this, allied with a harmonic sense that’s by turns sly and steeped in wit, is one of the hallmarks of his work.
—Nic Jones, AllAboutJazz.com
…it’s a very fine listen.The original pieces are short and well chiseled, while the covers are doing everything they can to make us forget the main melody without ever actually leaving them behind—the best example being Hofbauer’s reading of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
—François Couture, Monsieur Delire
Comparisons with Derek Bailey and Bill Frisell still apply here as Hofbauer plunders the songbooks of musicians such as Andrew Hill, Johnny Cash, Charlie Parker and Fats Waller smashing their various styles together in an acoustic guitar pile up that is both mischevious and playful. Wedged between these experiments are Hofbauer’s own compositions bearing titles such as “Monsters In The Closet”, “Broke Down… Breakdown” and “American Wonder” that burrow deep into the memory and refuse to budge.
—Edwin Pouncey, Jazzwise
Boston-based Hofbauer, who, in the last decade, has steadily asserted himself as an original if not maverick exponent of the guitar to be loosely aligned with the mighty Marcs—Ducret and Ribot—and Tortoise’s Jeff Parker, provides a wily and at times engrossing demonstration of those possibilities on this sequel to his 2004 set, American Vanity. Hofbauer skims right over the art-pop divide by interpreting Tears For Fears (Everybody Wants to Rule the World), Van Halen (Hot for Teacher), Charlie Parker (Moose the Mooche) and Andrew Hill (Black Fire). But as successful as his deconstructions and wry commentaries on these monuments are, he perhaps reaches his creative peak on nine originals, the bulk of which actually last no longer than a couple of minutes. Hofbauer is more than able to pen a pithy little riff but he really hits heights as a soloist when investigating timbres, and after striking up a guitar equivalent of a saxophonist ‘slap tonguing’, he makes it clear that he won’t settle for what his instrument can do when he can explore what it really ain’t supposed to.
—Kevin Le Gendre, BBC Music
One of my favorite listens of the past several months is this quirky solo guitar CD by Eric Hofbauer. American Fear (Creative Nation Music) is a fascinating blend of recognizable tunes (from Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” to Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”) to very short original works that have splintered rhythms and fractured melodies.
—Richard Kamins, Step Tempest
What an accomplished and smart player he is! A must for guitarists, and a pleasant surprise for the rest of us.
—Phillip McNally, Cadence
American Fear is his second solo album (following 2004’s American Vanity) and presents an original player with his own view of history. Covers of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and “Hot For Teacher” indicate his musical ethos was formed in the ’80s, but versions of Hank Williams’“ “Blue Highway” and Andrew Hill’s “Black Fire” show he goes a lot deeper than that.The fact that his originals sound both improvised and composed proves his creative impulse is wide. Technically Hofbauer can obviously play the standard jazz guitar game, but it’s clear he doesn’t want to be hemmed in by the clichés of its tradition.
—Robert Iannapollo, Signal to Noise
Creative Nation Music, CNM 019
Street Date: June 15, 2010
Eric Hofbauer, guitar
01. Everybody Wants to Rule the World (5:29)
02. Twenty Questions (2:38)
03. Her Hiding Place (1:18)
04. Hot for Teacher (4:41)
05. Bailout Blues (3:20)
06. Monsters In The Closet (0:56)
07. Monsters Under The Bed (1:25)
08. Moose The Mooche—Cash Style (2:26)
09. Black And Lost Blue Highway (6:18)
10. The Jump Jump (1:32)
11. La Ligne de Chance (2:35)
12. Smells Like Teen Spirit (7:03)
13. Black Fire (4:46)
14. Broke Down…Brakedown (1:42)
15. American Wonder (1:33)
All compositions by Eric Hofbauer (Spice-E Music,
BMI), except tracks 1 (Hughes/Orzabal/Stanley, EMI
Virgin Songs, Inc.), 4 (Anthony/A. Van Halen/E. Van
Halen, WB Music Corp.), 8 (Charlie Parker, Atlantic
Music Corp.), 9 (Waller/Payne, Wixen Music/
SONY ATV), 12 (Cobain/Novoselic/Grohl, EMI
Virgin Songs, Inc.) and 13 (Andrew Hill); recorded
January 2009 at CNM Studios in Somerville, MA.