Eric Hofbauer Appointed Chair of the Jazz and Contemporary Music Department at Longy School of Music of Bard College, Celebrates Banner Years of Releases
Guitarist, composer and educator Eric Hofbauer has had a busy year, with two major releases coming out on his label Creative Nation Music. Book of Water was released on June 14, and Remain of Echoes was released on October 18th. In addition to these two releases and the preparation for a third release, Book of Fire, on January 31st, Hofbauer has been appointed Chair of the Jazz and Contemporary Music Department at Longy School of Music of Bard College. The Jazz and Contemporary Music Department is a graduate program built on the idea that the legacy of jazz is boundaryless innovation. Hofbauer, an integral member of Boston’s jazz scene, is elated to take the lead at the prominent music school’s Jazz and Contemporary Music Department.
“Conservatory education is at a tipping point, and finally the study of improvisation is being recognized as crucial training for 21st century musicians. Longy’s JCM graduate dept is in a unique position, creating an environment where open-minded and open-eared musicians can develop as post-genre improvisers and composers who continue to push the art forward,” says Hofbauer on his new appointment.
Most recently, Hofbauer has been fully invested in his ‘Wu Xing’ series, a five-album recording project that is dedicated to musically depicting every part of the ancient Chinese schematic of the Five Agents, or Five Elements. We’ve now had water and fire; wood, metal and earth are still to come. Each one speaks to a particular social/political reality in need of “movement,” as Hofbauer puts it. Book of Water touched on the problem of climate change, and Hofbauer’s upcoming Book of Fire arrives with sobering reflections on racial inequality.
Book of Water, the first album in the guitarist’s five-album ‘Wu Xing’ series, featured 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. On the release, 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.”
October 18th marked the release of Hofbauer’s album Remains of Echoes. This duo album features Hofbauer alongside percussionist Dylan Jack. Remains of Echoes is an assemblage of renditions of songs written by iconic composers offering 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.
On January 31st, Hofbauer will release his latest album Book of Fire on his Boston-based label Creative Nation Music. This release is the second album in the artist’s Wu Xing (Five Agents) Series, Hofbauer’s musical depiction of every part of the ancient Chinese schematic of the Five Agents, or Five Elements. Book of Fire is the gripping follow-up to Hofbauer’s June 2019 sextet album Book of Water. Book of Fire, a stark contrast from Hofbauer’s last release, was conceived in a duo format with Anthony Leva on upright bass. The duo’s acoustic performance is augmented by the addition of electronic instrumentation and the intertwined recordings of literary giant James Baldwin. The result is an intense amalgam of consonance and texture; tradition and innovation.
More About the Artist:
“Eric Hofbauer has become a significant force in Boston’s improvised-music scene,” declares Stereophile’s David R. Adler. “His aesthetic evokes old blues, Americana, Tin Pan Alley, bebop, and further frontiers. There’s a rule-breaking spirit but also an impeccable rigor, a foundation of sheer chops and knowledge, that put Hofbauer in the top tier of guitarists,” he writes.
Hofbauer has been an integral member of Boston’s jazz scene as a musician, bandleader, organizer and educator for the past twenty five years. He has performed and recorded alongside such notable collaborators as Han Bennink, Roy Campbell, Jr., John Tchicai, Garrison Fewell, Cecil McBee, George Garzone, Sean Jones, John Fedchock, Steve Swell and Matt Wilson.
Hofbauer, recognized in the 2019 and 2017 DownBeat Critics’ Poll for Rising Star – Guitar, is perhaps best known for his solo guitar work featured in a trilogy of solo guitar recordings (American Vanity, American Fear and American Grace). Of the trilogy, Andrew Gilbert of The Boston Globe writes, “No other guitarist in jazz has developed a solo approach as rigorous, evocative, and thoughtful as Hofbauer. His 2016 solo release Ghost Frets, was described by Chris Haines of The Free Jazz Collective “as a real testament to Hofbauer’s musical style and vision…The playing is virtuosic throughout providing a real master class in creative solo performance.”
Hofbauer has earned critical acclaim for his work in a variety of musical projects, including recordings with the Garrison Fewell’s Variable Density Orchestra, The Pablo Ablanedo Octet(o), Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorer’s Club, and The Blueprint Project with Han Bennink among others. Hofbauer’s three recent collaborative projects, The Hofbauer/Dylan Jack Duo (guitar and drums duet performing a distinctive genre-crossing repertoire of covers), Pocket Aces (a “consciously compositional” improvising trio) and the Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet (a modern post bop outfit focused on original composition) had debut releases in 2018/19.
Hofbauer received a Master’s degree from New England Conservatory and a Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory. Hofbauer is the chair of the Jazz and Contemporary Music Dept. at Longy School of Music of Bard College where he teaches jazz theory, artist portfolio, chamber ensembles, solo repertoire class, and guitar lessons. For over 20 years he has taught jazz history at Emerson College. Hofbauer has also been visiting professor at Wellesley College, and faculty at Clark University and the University of Rhode Island. In 2009, he was honored with the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in Music Composition.