Album: Remains of Echoes
Street Date: October 18, 2019
Label: Creative Nation Music
Eric Hofbauer and Dylan Jack are proud to present the release of their upcoming duo album Remains of Echoes to be released October 18th on Hofbauer’s Creative Nation Music label. This assemblage of renditions of songs written by iconic composers offers a daring exploration into the collective sonancy of guitar and drum. A concept album of sorts, Remains of Echoes delves into the material that had a formative influence on both percussionist Dylan Jack and guitarist Eric Hofbauer. The goal of the Boston-area improvisers upon recording this album was to highlight the influences that were pivotal for the growth of both musicians, drawing a line from Ellington to Charlie Parker, Monk to Mingus, Miles to Ornette and Don Cherry. And not only those, but also Hendrix to the Police to Jackson Browne.
“We wanted an album entirely of covers, but very specific ones,” says Hofbauer, “they’re songs from our mentors or heroes, or songs by bands and composers that influenced us at pivotal moments. They’re stories with a deep narrative connection to our own development as lovers of music. It’s a celebration, a connection with the past… It’s about being part of a continuum in history” he adds. The title of this release, Remains of Echoes, was taken from Jimi Hendrix’s “Up From the Skies” in which the rock legend poses the question, “Is it just remains of vibrations and echoes long ago?” On Remains of Echoes, Hofbauer and Jack offer themselves and their performances as remains of the echoes of their idols, and the fervent vibrations of their guitar strings and drum heads bring out the echoes of the past through re-exploration of the music of yesteryear.
The album, recorded at Rotary Records in Springfield MA, begins with the duo’s take on The Police’s “Walking on the Moon”. The full sound of this track speaks to the chord-melody prowess of Hofbauer and the rhythmic ingenuity of Jack. According to Jack: “My approach on this record was to be a solo percussionist/drummer in order to get as much music as I could out of the instrument. Whether I was playing melodies, soloing or supporting Eric, I tried to surround his playing with different registers, timbres, density and space.”
The duo’s exploration of “African Flower” by Duke Ellington celebrates the iconic 1962 trio recording “Money Jungle”, the recording which brought the song to fame, with a rendition that echoes from 1962 to 2019. The counterpoint of Hofbauer’s bassline and melody in conjunction with Jack’s timbreal musings on the drum kit make for a fresh take on the timeless Ellington classic. Hofbauer notes that the unique instrumentation of the album demands a closer examination and utilization of the low end of his instrument. “With Dylan adding pieces to his kit,” Hofbauer states “tuned bass drums and floor toms, also covering bass line-type ostinatos— we worked together to highlight the essence of bass frequency minus the bass.”
Hofbauer performs a solo cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” where he offers a raw, playful take on the bluesy track. This track is dedicated to his father-in-law who passed away in 2017. “Using slide guitar is a way for me to express that strong emotional pull that always draws me back to the blues,” Hofbauer declares. “That expressiveness and that timbre. My father-in-law was a big fan of California bands, especially the Beach Boys and all the artists that were their heirs, including Jackson Browne, so the piece covers a lot of very personal emotional ground. I wanted to celebrate my father-in-law and express my sadness for his loss. It celebrates music that he loved but in a deeply personal way that can help me grieve and honor him.” The finale of the album is Miles Davis’ classic “Nardis” which was made popular by pianist Bill Evans. This reimagination of the standard sees the Boston duo experimenting with time and timbre in a way that is fitting to the quiet intensity of the piece.
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Album: Book of Water
Street Date: June 14, 2019
Label: Creative Nation Music
On the guitarist’s 22nd project, a formidable frontline of horns comprising of tenor saxophonist Seth Meicht, trombonist Jeb Bishop and trumpeter Jerry Sabatini, join forces with the stellar rhythm section of guitarist Eric Hofbauer, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Curt Newton to form the Five Agents. This classic jazz-sextet lineup delivers a technically stunning performance over intensely rigorous compositions, all the while maintaining the freewheeling, improvisatory aesthetic so crucial to the ensemble’s sound. The composer’s history with these musicians becomes evident when noting the marvelous interplay between the rhythm section instruments and the synchronicity that the horn players have over even the most improvisational sections of these dense pieces. “There are so many layers of connections between everyone,” Hofbauer remarks, “that the result is a band sound steeped in experience — relaxed, trusting, comfortable and intuitive.”
Recorded in front of a live studio audience, Book of Water, is part one of a multi-ensemble project that will be in five parts. Hofbauer first conceived of this multi-part odyssey in 2016 as the release of five books in album format, each “book” containing five movements or “chapters.” The composer drew the parallel between the concept of this project and the Chinese philosophical construct of the Wu Xing or the “Five Agents.” Through the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water, Hofbauer states that this ancient text offers the reader “a way to navigate, organize and explain relationships in nature, between people, in medicine, design and music.” In a bold attempt to tackle questions about interconnectedness, impermanence and other ‘meaning of life’ conundrums that the artist deems apropos to this deeply improvisation-steeped art-form, Hofbauer allows himself to explore each of the five tenets of this ancient text in his own way, starting with “Book of Water.”
While the Wu Xing provides the framework for Hofbauer’s Five Agents project as a whole, the chapter titles on this release, Book of Water, were derived from the Ralph Waldo Emerson poem “Water.” Hofbauer notes “It’s uncanny how the lines match up with the pace, feel and emotional space of each part of the piece. Water is a power element — flowing, changing states, placid sometimes, deadly others. We explore those themes in the chapters and Emerson’s poem matches almost line by line.” Hofbauer draws from this poem a prescient perspective on climate change and the threat of rising seas. The artist states “Each of my books connect to a major societal issue that is in need of ‘movement.’ This is not a programmatic piece on climate change, nor is it a call to action per se, but a catalyst for dialogue, for posing questions.”
Hofbauer’s Prehistoric Jazz series featured both Sabatini and Newton and explored the music of Messiaen, Stravinsky, Ives and Ellington. The influences of these composers on Hofbauer’s composition can not be understated. One can’t help but notice hints of neoclassicism and serialism in his compositions, but these stately underpinnings are woven into the fabric of pieces that are deeply rooted in the jazz tradition. Staying true to the nature of water, Book of Water can be characterized as stylistically fluid. In one moment, the listener can be engaged with a piece sonically reminiscent to that of Nefertiti-Era Miles Davis like the very beginning of the first chapter “The Water Understands Civilization Well” and then next, they can be introduced to a dixieland-inspired passage. Throughout this fluidity, the compositions remain genuine and cohesive.
“The Water Understands Civilization Well” looks at water as a positive force. This upbeat swing portion of the suite offers energetic duet conversations in lieu of solo sections. Chapter 2: “It Wets, It Chills” explores the various states of water (particularly vapor and ice) as sound which allows for a more sparse, delicate textural exploration. Chapter 3: “It is not Disconcerted” is, according to Hofbauer, “An acknowledgement that water doesn’t care, it does what it does. This section has a carefree, funky spare beat, bassline and guitar riffs, unfettered by the ‘bubbles’ as I call them from the brass. The tenor melody literally rises out of all that, launching into the solos.”
“Well Used, Adorning Joy” explores an odd-metered bass ostinato, starting with beautiful chordal passages by Hofbauer accompanied by McBride’s static bass figure, the energy of the piece builds as the full ensemble joins in to add punchy melodic accents leading into a stunning solo by Hofbauer. The line “Elegantly Destroy,” which the final chapter is named after reminds the composer of the intention of this album, “If that isn’t a harbinger of how Boston will lose ground to the Atlantic in the coming decades I don’t know what is.” Says Hofbauer, “I love the word ‘elegantly’ in this line, because unlike human destruction, water will create something new with all the grace and beauty of nature.” This chapter offers by far the most dynamic exploration of different feels and timbre. Featuring a fantastic, driving solo by saxophonist Seth Meicht leading into a far more free section of minimalist interplay, this composition seems to embody the idea of destruction and elegant reconstruction on which The Book of Water is based.
Derived from liner notes written by David Adler.
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For Book of Water
POINT OF DEPARTURE
"Hofbauer comps incisively, one of many seemingly independent voices, from pinwheeling brass exchanges to scalar tenor, all flowing together inexorably." Read the full review here.
"...Hofbauer has such a simpatico team, with solid soloists in every chair, but it’s the overall rigor of the guitarist’s vision that makes The Book of Water an elemental success." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Hofbauer brings his intuitive improvisatory flair to five lengthy tracks, trickling, rushing, presenting a narrative that questions, searches, and alights on the time honed belief that together we persevere." Read the full review here.
“Water Understands Civilization Well,” the album’s opening track, is a fast, jumpy piece with plenty of polyphonic interplay and competition among the horns, each man attempting to both comment on what the others are doing and make his own statement, in a “Yeah, but have you considered…” sort of way. Read the full review here.
"Hofbauer reveals himself as a creative composer capable of integrating exacting composition and tactical flexibility with dogged determination." Read the full review here.
"A remarkable recording: demanding at first listen, but intensely communicative, urgent and funky in its way." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"This is avant-garde jazz that features the freewheeling, improvisational, aesthetic that binds together this innovative ensemble’s sound." Read the full review here.