Prehistoric Jazz — Volume 1, Boston-based guitarist/composer Eric Hofbauer’s debut recording of his new ensemble, the Eric Hofbauer Quintet, features the leader’s arrangement of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. In confronting the monumental work the goal was not a melding of genres or a salute to “serious” music in general, but rather a puzzling over matters of timbre and instrumentation, improvisational pathways and harmonic implications specific to the composer. The orchestration is rigorous, yet everywhere is the spark of the unexpected. Hofbauer’s take on the encounter of European modernism with American blues and jazz follows in the best tradition of Scott Joplin and all that came after who explored the fluid boundary between classical music and jazz.
It’s hard not to think of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) as a big scary piece, loaded with historical significance. But its on a par with other unlikely works that Hofbauer has explored in a solo guitar context: “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen, or “West End Blues” by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five, or “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. Hofbauer’s solo guitar trilogy — American Vanity (2002), American Fear (2010) and American Grace (2012) — was remarkable in the way it expanded the song canon, and with it the idiomatic reach of the instrument. The jump from this to deconstructing great orchestral and chamber music might have been bold, but it made perfect sense.
The album title was inspired by video footage of Leonard Bernstein rehearsing The Rite of Spring in 1987 where he instructs the timpanist to play like “prehistoric jazz.” In that one term from Bernstein, Hofbauer found all the affirmation he needed to venture his own small-group treatment of the Rite “For me,” Hofbauer explains, “connecting with that feeling of ‘the prehistoric jazz’ was my entrée into this masterwork of shifting syncopated rhythms and polytonality. My goal then became to synthesize the most memorable melodic and rhythmic elements from the original score with improvisation.” Hofbauer’s Rite is a different animal from the many previous jazz ensemble versions over the past several decades. It is intimate acoustic chamber jazz with an extraordinary purity of tone, acute attention to timbral nuances and textures, driving rhythmic interaction, and most importantly, full of improvisation ranging from meditative solo features to swinging blues choruses to deft contrapuntal collective sections which capture the spirit and raucous energy of the original recast as spontaneous interplay.
“The studied primitivism of Igor Stravinsky’s symphonic The Rite of Spring is miniaturized with each player standing in for a different orchestral section. The result is as rousing and romantic as the original score, but with openings for distinctive solos that rhythmically extend the composer’s ur-modernism. Originally composed for a chamber ensemble, Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps is implemented with as much joyous ecstasy as the composer intended, but stripped of its overt Christian mysticism.
– Ken Waxman, The Whole Note
“Stravinsky’s music is deconstructed and personalized into a jazz framework as the quintet transform “Ritual of Abduction” and “Ritual of The Two Rival Tribes” into swinging outlandish affairs while evoking a sense of both calm and cacophony to the invigorating “Spring Rounds.” There are memorable individual performances such as Newton’s crisp and lively percussion in “Dancing Out of The Earth” and Fujiwara’s warm cello reverberations in “The Exalted Sacrifice.” Hofbauer offers a glowing solo in “The Naming and Honoring of The Chosen One” with sheer dexterity and inventiveness and Sabatini brings sensitivity and layered contours through his trumpet-mute in “Evocation of The Ancestors.” Numerous tempo changes, twists and turns, and plenty of dramatics, the release is a testament to both Stravinsky’s genius and Hofbauer’s lucid vision. The recording concludes with as much personality and vim as it began—the eccentrics of “Ritual Action of The Ancestors” with its swing-march turned to groove and “Sacrificial Dance”‘s free jazz blowout. – Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz
“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
“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)
Creative Nation Music, CNM 025
Street Date: October 28, 2014
All compositions by Igor Stravinsky.
All arrangements by Eric Hofbauer (Spice-E Music, BMI).
Recorded (04/14), Mixed & Mastered at The Rotary Records (rotaryrecords.com) by Warren Amerman
Design by Benjamin Shaykin (benjaminshaykin.com),
Liner Notes by David Adler (adlermusic.com)
Photo by Lauren Poussard (laurenpoussard.com)
Produced by Eric Hofbauer (erichofbauer.com)
Printed by DWRI Letterpress (dwriletterpress.net)
℗ 2014 Creative Nation Music
© 2014 Creative Nation Music