Guitar/piano duets are a rarity, if only because there is often an inherent difficulty in finding a way to work together without stepping on each others’ toes. Notable exceptions, of course, include records with Bill Evans and Jim Hall; Pat Martino and Gil Goldstein; and, in more recent years, Bill Frisell and Fred Hersch. Now add to that list Interconnection , which teams up guitarist Bob Sneider and pianist Paul Hofmann in a programme that proves that good ears and a common purpose can make this rarity of a combination work without difficulty.
Sneider, a veteran of Chuck Mangione’s band, with a style that is already distinguishing itself in the mainstream vernacular, has a dry, acoustic tone that is reminiscent of Jim Hall, but slightly less muted. Hofmann, who has performed with Kevin Mahogany, comes from the Evans/Jarrett/Corea school, but has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge that matches Sneider’s clear understanding of jazz history, as they tackle, in addition to a large number of original compositions, pieces by Ellington, Jobim and Gershwin.
While the more traditional leanings of their cover material demonstrate a solid grounding in their roots, it is the original material that really shines on this release. Hofmann’s “Jazz Suite for Guitar and Piano” is especially intriguing, as it opens up with “A Good Book,” a piece that would fit comfortably in the Chick Corea/Gary Burton songbook; bright, outgoing and swinging, it is a fine beginning. Hofmann’s themes are as elliptical as some of Corea’s best, and the entire suite demonstrates the ability of the duo to constantly and seamlessly alternate roles, from that of accompanist to that of soloist. Sneider may well be a closet bassist, as he sometimes works his way into generating walking bass lines to support Hoffman’s solos.
“Rumblin’” is a mid-tempo blues where Sneider shows his bop chops and broad intervallic jumps. “Scooby,” another Sneider composition, “is a tender piece, somehow recalling Evans’ “Waltz for Debby,” although there is little similar other than it being a jazz waltz. “A Place to Hide,” a Hofmann composition, features the kind of melodic invention that, again, owes something to Corea.
Throughout, the interplay demonstrated by Sneider and Hofmann gives credence to the album’s title. The two are so relaxed together, so in each other’s pocket that they make the most convoluted motifs sound effortless. A fine effort all-around, and one which highlights their formidable strength as composers as much as performers, Interconnection is a recording that ought to bring more well-deserved attention to both Sneider and Hofmann.
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