Boston based guitarist and rising star Eric Hofbauer obviously isn't afraid of challenges. But then again, no musician/artist should be if they wish to leave a mark. The compositional intent at first come across rather lofty: a five part, multi-ensemble project interpreting wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, namely the five pillars of Chinese philosophy understood as the "Five Agents," with each element its own book or, in this case, album, containing five chapters or compositions, someone's got to take the task on.
So we have Book of Water and Hofbauer begins his journey into the interconnectedness of it all on a high note. Recorded live before a studio audience, 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.
But how he and his formidable sextet get there is the thrilling sound of Book of Water. His name may come first on the marquee and promotional materials, but his cohorts -Seth Meicht, tenor sax, Jeb Bishop, trombone, Jerry Sabatini, trumpet, Nate McBride, bass and Curt Newton, drums, surf the waves and hold the tide with unflinching intensity.
Sabatini's quiet entrance and his command of muted tone, melody and composition is the showcase of "It Wets, It Chills." Straight out of the Gil Evans' handbook, the band rises mist-like around him, until McBride's bowing darkens like melting glacial ice. "It's Not Disconcerted" tumbles and tides freely, washing away whatever preconceived landscapes of free jazz remain. "Well Used, Adorning Joy" rambles in rivulets of Hofbauer's chordal dynamics, some echoing Tin Pan Alley, others Jerry Garcia, still others Freddie King, until the rhythm section flows over with an impressive and irrepressible groove. "Ill Used, Will Elegantly Destroy" is a strong closing statement on the potential floods that will to re-arrange life as we now live it. With rambling grace, guitar, trombone and bass capture our attention while the band swells into a rampant flood, taking us with them wherever that leads.
Water Understands Civilization Well; It Wets, It Chills; It Is Not Disconcerted; Well Used, Adorning Joy; Ill Used,
Will Elegantly Destroy.
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