Prehistoric Jazz — Volume 2, Boston-based guitarist/composer Eric Hofbauer’s second recording of his ensemble, the Eric Hofbauer Quintet, features the leader’s arrangement of Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps. In confronting the iconic 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 the America of 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 Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) as a daunting 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.
Eric Hofbauer approaches Fin du Temps entirely on his own terms, as he does with Stravinsky’s Rite on Prehistoric Jazz, Vol. 1. These sister CDs feature the same exceptional chamber-jazz lineup, but while there’s much that unifies the two, the contrast between the sonic worlds of Stravinsky and Messiaen can be dramatic. “Both explore timbre and dynamics,” Hofbauer says, “But where the Rite often quickly and dramatically changes, Fin du Temps simmers on extreme quiet for extended periods, or digs into a timbral palette during solo features.” There’s also substantial difference in how Messiaen uses motivic ideas. Hofbauer explains, “Stravinsky is a motivic deconstructionist, but Messiaen is a motivic developer. Messiaen uses small ideas, often an interval set to a specific rhythm, throughout. These phrases, which are riff-like from a jazz perspective, become launching points for improvised collective dialogues, solo features, vamps, and ostinatos. They even provide rhythmic foundations, acting as indicators for the pulse, thus helping establish various grooves including odd meters, marches, and swing.”
“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
“Once more, it’s the quintet’s strength coupled with the recording’s superb sound that captures the spirit of Messiaen’s tranquil lyricism. Written for clarinet, movements like “Liturgie de cristal” are rapturous showcases of Todd Brunel’s timbre and control. Yet the other musicians heat things up through some bopping swing at the interlude “Intermède” in what represents a lively blending of chamber and jazz. The overall air of the recording is imbued with serenity; elongated notes that interestingly enough resemble jazz and blues song structures.” – 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
“As with volume one Eric does not give you an end-to-end transcription of the original work, but instead selects key motives and sections, giving the themes to various instrumental combinations and slanting the phrases at times for a more jazzed reading. The Messiaen really lends itself to this treatment, and Eric makes much out of the music so that it convinces fully as jazz for today. There are certain passages of the work that sound so boppish you’d think Messiaen meant them that way. Kudos to Hofbauer for hearing the potential and realizing it so well. Eric, Jerry and Todd get some really interesting solos going too, at times simultaneously. It is no easy feat to pull this off, but Hofbauer and company do so with style, swinging heat and smarts. This one brings it on home! Many stars, if I rated things that way. Highly recommended! – 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 Olivier Messiaen.
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