Eric Hofbauer: American Fear (2010)
Boston, Massachusetts is truly blessed in having Eric Hofbauer as a member of its improvised music community. Over the course of successive releases he has proved himself to be one of the great original voices and this solo guitar recital proves it in spades. He seemingly and effortlessly has forged a highly individual instrumental vocabulary and this, allied with a harmonic sense that's by turns sly and steeped in wit, is one of the hallmarks of his work.
He sets out his stall from the off in making something of "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." In the hands of Tears For Fears the song came on like so much doggerel but here it's subject to the kind of wholesale revision that only a musical intelligence as refined as Hofbauer's could effect. In common with some other players working in this area he has a sense of the innate qualities of the type and model of guitar he's playing and that comes out in his attack, which is dry and cleanly articulated.
In view of all, it's sad that "Her Hiding Place" clocks in at a mere one minute and eighteen seconds. As this fragment proves, Hofbauer has a knack for sounding pensive without sounding tentative and it's a shame that the piece doesn't develop to the point at which this fine balance really comes into its own.
He enjoys getting outside of the guitar's usual range too. "Moose The MoochCash Style" is not merely an exercise in post-modern wit, it's an example of what can be achieved when a player is open to sonic possibilities. The fact that Hofbauer saw those possibilities in the first place is enough, but then he goes and lays his improviser's heart on the line and the result is an all-round joy.
When Hofbauer's overseeing things there's something pleasingly unmannerly about hearing compositions by Nirvana and Andrew Hill back to back, and this might be the only time that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Black Fire" are heard together. The guitarist has an acute eye for detail and this pairing reveals how sharp it is. If the original reading of the former was notable for its quasi-nihilistic fury, Hofbauer's reading is notable for what he leaves out, but through such a reductionist exercise he teases out previously unrevealed depth and subtlety. Such a trick is by no means as clear-cut when it comes to Andrew Hill, but Hofbauer's oblique harmonic sense, augmenting the composer's in this case, results in music as unassumingly compelling as anything out there.
Track Listing: Everybody Wants To Rule The World; Twenty Questions; Her Hiding Place; Hot For Teacher; Bailout Blues; Monsters In The Closet; Monsters Under The Bed; Moose The Mooch--Cash Style; Black And Blue Lost Highway; The Jump Jump; La Ligne De Chance; Smells Like Teen Spirit; Black Fire; Broke Down...Breakdown; American Wonder.
Personnel: Eric Hofbauer: guitar.