Amos Hoffman
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Amos Hoffman

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"Evolution - Review"

Hoffman's third solo release finds him playing much more oud than guitar, and a joy it is to hear him. The rich, sophisticated compositions are performed by a spare group (he's backed by percussion, flute and bass/piano/vocals) that affords his playing plenty of room, and mixes his love of Middle Eastern music and jazz on these compositions. "Enayim," the opener, is a perfect case in point, with lovely, twining lines from bass and oud that extend like vines. It could be from nowhere other than the Eastern Mediterranean, yet with the lightness and openness of jazz -- the bass has as much freedom as the oud. Hoffman is an excellent composer, one who trusts his musicians and gives them their heads, and it pays off. There's plenty of melody, even though this is a group that works closer to the cutting edge than the mainstream. They can make a song like "I Met You" feel like a shaft of light on a cloudy day, and on the instances when Hoffman does move to guitar, the effect is to instantly Westernize the music -- which, used in moderation, brings an inverse taste of the exotic to this disc. It's good, very good indeed, possibly one of the most successful music fusions recorded. - allmusic.com


"Music Review - Amos Hoffman - Evolution"

Have you ever been fairly certain about an upcoming performance and/or record only to have your expectations turned upside down? That happened to me back in the early '90s. A friend and I had tickets to see Ginger Baker play at a small local club. I can't remember exactly what I thought the music would be like but I was not expecting a lineup consisting of only Baker, a second percussionist, and two bass players. One of the bassists was the great Jonas Hellborg, sporting a midi rig that took care of everything from evil noise to the keyboard parts. The music was groove-oriented with various African elements. It was stunning.

One thing it was not was Cream.

Listening to Amos Hoffman's Evolution induced strong memory pangs from that evening because, even though the promo material said it, the idea of the Middle Eastern oud taking a trip though jazz land just didn't register with me. Sure enough, Hoffman enlists Ilan Katchka (percussion), Ilan Salem (flute), and bassist Avishai Cohen to bring his Middle Eastern/African/jazz concept to life.

At first listen, the opening track "Enayim" doesn't grab you as something too far removed from the target instrument's roots. It's when Hoffman drops back to give Cohen a bass solo — one that dovetails perfectly into the oud's melodic lines as well as the chattering percussion — that you begin give Hoffman credit for a masterfully subtle weave.

Throughout the album, the ear is surprised by unexpected shifts in musical behavior. On "Miss T," Hoffman creates a searching duet with Avishai Cohen (who switches to the piano). Mid-song, a little blues shuffle kicks in before they drop back, take a breath, and then lurch forward into a much faster section full of speedy piano passages and tricky rhythms. "Hamsa" finds Hoffman wending his way through a dark theme accompanied by bass and percussion. About two-thirds of the way though, the tempo suddenly increases and Hoffman takes an angular guitar solo over his own rolling arpeggios. "Sweet Eden" plays with formats by starting out with oud and flute in near unison, followed by a flute solo, finally switching to oud and flute sliding through some moody descending parts.

Some of this approach was foreshadowed as early as the second track, "Exploration." After Hoffman and Salem state the theme, Cohen takes a bowed bass solo that both transforms and enhances the theme. The tempo the jumps an order of magnitude and "Exploration" takes off, almost sounding like a modern twist on "Caravan." Truly inspiring stuff.

I did not expect that the first few bars of Evolution would flower into such a textured and unpredictable musical statement. I'll take a surprise like that any day of the week. - Blogcritics.org


Discography

Amos Hoffman – Evolution, Razdaz Records 2008; Na’ama, Magda Records 2006; The Dreamer, Fresh Sound/New Talent 1999
Iris & Ofer Portugali – Sipur B’hemshech, Independent Release 2007
Avishai Cohen - Aurora, 2009; Shaot Regishot, 2008; Continuo, 2006 Razdaz Records; Colors, 2000; Devotion, 1999; Adama, 1998 Stretch Records,
Alon Farber – Optimistic View Fresh Sound/New Talent 2006
Rea Bar Nes – Remember Forget, Independent release 2006
3 Cohens – One, Independent release 2003
Quartet East - Yeah! Independent release 2002
Sam Newsome and Global Unity, Columbia 1999
Jay Collins - Cross Culture, Loose Leaf Records 1999
Marya Lawrence - All the Way Back, Oxygen Music Works 1998
Ben Wolfe -13 Sketches, Mons Records 1997

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Bio

Tel Aviv based guitarist and oudist Amos Hoffman started playing guitar at the age of 6, and oud a few years later. He studied guitar privately, and attended the prestigious Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. His search for new musical experiences led him first to Amsterdam, and then to New York City, where he played jazz with both established musicians like Dennis Charles, Evelyn Blakey and Juma Santos and up and coming talents like Jason Lindler, Omer Avital, Sam Newsome, Jay Collins, bassist Avishai Cohen, Jorge Rossi and Duane Eubanks. He also began a more formal study of Middle Eastern music with Lebanese oud and ney player, Bassam Saba.
In 1998, he recorded his first solo album The Dreamer for the Spanish Label, Fresh Sound/New Talent. He has also contributed to numerous other projects, including Ben Wolfe's 13 Sketches, 1997, Jay Collins' Cross Culture,1999, Sam Newsome 1999 and bassist Avishai Cohen's Continuo, 2006, Colors 2000 Devotion, 1999 and Adama, 1998.
After returning to Israel at the end of 1999, he began to compose the music that would eventually become the tracks on Na'ama, released in 2006 on Magda records. On Na’ama, Hoffman plays homage to the traditions of classical Arabic music the taqasim (improvisation) and the maqam (scales). All 12 tracks are original compositions, inspired by the great Arab composers of the 20th Century.
Further pursuing his passion for combining jazz with Middle Eastern music, his newest work is Evolution (RazDaz), a ten track exploration of melodies and rhythms that incorporates compositional and improvisational elements common to both musical genres.