Marc Hoffman
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Marc Hoffman

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"Curioso Equals Serious Following"

Marc Hoffman: Curioso: Virillion VM0416-5 Review: Gary Dalkin

North Carolina based musician, composer, songwriter Marc Hoffman may just be too talented for his own good. At least for a world which expects artists to do one thing, then keep doing it over with minimal variation equating to maximum commercial gain. Hoffman gifts range from contemporary classical composer to singer-songwriter via film composer, to say nothing of developing an acclaimed series of guitar tutorials and recently penning his first children’s book.

Curioso states its aim simply and definitively. It’s a jazz album delivering 11 Hoffman originals with the disc produced by Hoffman, who performs piano, keyboards, percussion and occasional vocals. Long Way Home (VH-04613), a solo piano disc which featured some jazz flavoured numbers is the closest precedent in Hoffman’s back catalogue, but here he presents a much more ambitious project with an accomplished band comprising John Sharp (guitars), Terry Peoples (bass guitar), Tim Gordon (sax), Gray Fallin (drums/percussion) and Mike Lanier (drums/percussion: two tracks only).

It’s worth taking note of these musicians, who may not be household names but are talents of a high order. It is testament to Hoffman’s music that he is able to attract the likes of John Sharpe, who has played or recorded with The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Jimmy Buffett, Brook Benton, The Diamonds, performed widely with various bands in Europe and released the well- received solo album Better Than Dreams. Sharpe shared a Grammy nomination for writing the title track of drums/percussion maestro Jim Brock’s album Pasajes, touring through the 1990’s with Brock’s band.

As well as being a permanent member of Nashville’s Mr Groove and a leading session musician for artists across America, Tim Gordon tours regularly with The Four Tops and The Temptations. Terry Peoples played bass for the jazz pianist Loonis McGlohan. In more recent years he has been an international freelance musician, recording with artists such as Mike Campbell and Eileen Farrell. Mike Lanier is an NC native most notably associated with The Breeze Band while Gray Fallin is a stalwart of The Brubakers.

From the onset Curioso is characterised by strong melody, concentrated rhythm and tight instrumental interplay, question and answer dialogues deftly shifting between piano, sax or guitar. Hoffman brings a light, fluid grace to his eloquent improvisations, the tone largely optimistic though shot through with an enquiring spirit which adds an intriguing melodic quirk to the disc. The opening two numbers, ‘Hefti’, in homage to Neil, and ‘G Min’ compliment one another as up-beat group pieces, ‘Introspective’ adding a touch of breezy melancholy to what is essentially a piano piece with percussion backing. ‘Dog Days’ is a very laid-back number, the relaxed guitar workout and electric piano moving into drivetime- smooth jazz territory.

Hoffman conducts a lyrical dialogue with himself on ‘Q’, the vibrant melody which is eventually picked- up by electric guitar having an almost cinematic sense of the freedom of wide open spaces. ‘Bender’, written in memory of a friend who died suddenly in the summer of 2007, celebrates a spirit as much as it mourns a loss, a tenderness running though the music which refuses to surrender to darkness. ‘Theme #2’ is virtually a solo piano piece accompanied by very low-key percussion and bass. Here Hoffman showcases a rich melody through a series of brief variations which have the quality of classic Americana, from old-time hymns to Coplandesque expanse. One can imagine this orchestrated as a the valedictory finale to an Oscar-nominated home-town drama. ‘Thumbs’ has a sassy syncopated swagger and feather-light lilt which suggests, at least for a moment, all is well in the world. Though Hoffman would never claim to be a Pat Metheny fan ‘Aila Leya’ bears the Metheny hallmarks of stratospheric, processed vocals over electric guitar (think of Metheny’s Imaginary Day period), the number morphing into the kind of synth workout one might expect from Bela Fleck on one of his band albums with Futureman, or perhaps Rick Wakeman grooving away on a 70’s Yes classic. Unfortunately its all over too soon, something which might be said of several tracks on this disc, which rather than outstay their welcome expire before they have reached their full potential. One might hope for Hoffman to push his material further into some really extended improvisations. ‘Curioso’ is an amiable stroll though classic piano, bass, drums jazz trio territory, while the closing ‘Pontified’ pays uplifting tribute to Jean Luc.

Curioso is a strong, diverse album which really demonstrates that, talented as Hoffman is in other areas, jazz is his true forte. A couple more discs like this, especially if he gains the confidence to develop some more expansive, exploratory tracks, and his infectious, melodic writing and polished musicianship will surely start to win him a serious following. - Gary Dalkin - All About Jazz


"Hoffman Branches Out"

Marc Hoffman is nothing if not versatile. He is a performer and composer as well as an educator. Though having written and performed in many genres, and for the screen, orchestra and solo performance among others, his latest endeavor, released on his own Virillion label, is titled simply “Curioso.”

But simple is not a suitable adjective for this fresh and diverse recording. With Curioso, Mr. Hoffman, who wrote the charts, and produced the disc in his studio not far from Charlotte, NC, shows a maturity that comes from years of experience in performance and composition.

The opening track, “Hefti” features the spirited sax playing of Tim Gordon in an upbeat piece that is a good jumping off point for the rest of the album. Marc's piano virtuosity is highlighted on “G min”, a song reminiscent of the 60's era “Cool School.” The evocative “Introspective” will probably have you hitting the “repeat” button on your CD player a few times.

That Marc was able to attract world class musicians the likes of the Grammy nominated guitarist Sharpe, and Gordon, the perennial Four Tops' saxophonist to the sleepy little micropolis of Salisbury, NC speaks well of his stature as a musician. He explores many different styles here ending with a jazz violin piece dedicated to Jean luc Ponty.

This disc will find a nice home in your car's player and may be there for the long haul.

- Paul Garrett - All About Jazz


"Wilde Festival Premiere"

“...the Hollywood impressions of Marc Hoffman's “Middle Earth” made some pieces on the program seem stale and derivative.” - review of U.K. premiere at the Wilde Festival by pianist Andrew Ball. - The Guardian


"Long Way Home"

“Hoffman proves you can go home again...nine original piano pieces in a style that might be described as somewhere between the contemporary approach of Windham Hill with a nod in the direction of Aaron Copland...” - Gary Dalkin, editor - Film Music on the Web - Gary Dalkin - All About Jazz


Discography

Curioso LP - original jazz
Long Way Home LP - solo piano
The Mill LP - original score

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Bio

Professional, captivating, and incredibly talented -- Marc Hoffman and his musicians offer a diverse range of styles and exceptional vocals that make them the ideal musical entertainment choice for any occasion, from a small gathering to a large celebration. They have performed nationally and internationally for festivals, weddings, corporate events, university functions, and in jazz clubs. They have entertained crowds at the North Charleston Coliseum, Speedway Motorsports Inc., the Blumenthal Center, and the Grove Park Inn. They have provided all the music for private weddings, from the ceremony to cocktail hour, dinner and dancing. And they were the exclusive musical entertainment for former President Gerald Ford's family during his granddaughter's wedding reception. This is a testament to their versatility, as they perform anything from Tony Bennett to The Beatles to Motown – from jazz to pop to light classical – under the direction of bandleader Marc Hoffman, a highly respected pianist, vocalist, composer, musical educator and performing artist.

The Marc Hoffman Trio and Quartet carefully program the perfect music for each specific event. Marc is also available for bookings as a soloist or with duo, trio, or four- or five-piece ensembles. A graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, Marc also studied film scoring at the University of Southern California and composition at the Dartington School in the UK. In 2006 he served as composer and music supervisor for the feature film, “The Mill.”