Primary Instrument: Band/orchestra
With the same signature blend of intelligence and whimsy heard on his innovative 2004 solo recording, American Vanity (CNM 003), and The Blueprint Project with Han Bennink's well-received 2007 release, People I Like (CNM 008), Boston-based guitarist/composer Eric Hofbauer's newest ensemble, The Infrared Band, explores his intermingling interests in wordplay, mythology and puzzles. The quartet released its debut CD, Myth Understanding (CNM 011) on June 17th, 2008.
If there's a single overarching ethos to the band it would be 'tell your story,' Hofbauer explains. All my compositions have a back story or theme and I encourage each player to add their own take on those stories and to play from personal experience. When I decided to put together a permanent lineup for the band, I handpicked tenor saxophonist Kelly Roberge (who, like me, studied at Oberlin with Don Walden), bassist Michael Montgomery (who was recommended by a mutual friend) and drummer Miki Matsuki (who I worked with in Charlie Kohlhase's band). There's no role playing, I compose to each of their strengths, featuring everyone and challenging their limits.
When musicians of this caliber explore their innermost selves, writes music journalist Ed Hazell in the Myth Understanding liner notes, using Eric's composition as the starting point and improvisation as the methodology, you can bet profound things are discovered -- always in a playful spirit, of course. But Eric has more to offer than his sense of humor. There's always a strong concept behind any of Eric's musical endeavors, whether it's a composition or a recording. On this album, the compositions fall into three general categories: compositions based on myths, compositions derived from sung phrases, and what Eric calls (with the inevitable pun) 'Puzzle Pieces.'
--Michael Coyle, Cadence
...a lithe, smart quartet...It’s great stuff, and Hofbauer’s definitely found the
right voices for his brand of avant-postbop.
--Nathan Turk, Signal to Noise
Boston-based guitarist Eric Hofbauer is no hellacious chopsmeister, but his
edgy, outsider aesthetic informs this intriguingly original music. Utilizing
spiky lines, odd harmonies and dissonant chord clusters (Joe Morris meets
“Blood” Ulmer) while also making striking use of space and putting a premium
on swing and blues, Hofbauer stakes out fresh territory on tunes like “Jac Mac
Talkin’”, “A Drunk Monk” and “The Chump Killer”. Secret weapon Kelly
Roberge enlivens these tracks with rare abandon and blowtorch intensity on
--Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes
...Hofbauer brings a wealth of historical antecedents to his playfully inventive
compositions. A refreshingly original voice, Hofbauer reveals an affable yet
mischievous sensibility in his writing and improvising. Aided by the
superlative interpretive abilities of his sidemen, Eric Hofbauer and The
Infrared Band make Myth Understanding a sterling debut.
--Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com
The liner notes give you all the inside dope on guitarist Hofbauer’s
compositional strategies -- myths, puzzles, martial arts, puns, programmatic
narratives. But what’s likely to hit you first is his flair for bluesy, riffing AABA
melodies. Yes, he likes to warp expectations with all that gamesmanship, but
at his best, he sets up a satisfying songlike tension-and-release from stop-
time and odd-meter sections into 4/4 swing.
--Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix
The music here is shot through with quirks so skillfully played that they seem
integral to the success of its realization. Although the precedents for tenor
sax-guitar-bass-drums quartets are many, they still manage to make
something fresh out of it, and in a manner so easy that it might leave
listeners wondering why so few musicians seem to manage it. It all adds up
to something special, not least because this is a group which seems to realize
that the tradition is no end in itself but rather something that retains its
validity only through periodic but ranging renewal.
--Nic Jones, AllAboutJazz.com