Eric Hofbauer & The Infrared Band
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Eric Hofbauer & The Infrared Band

Somerville, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Somerville, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
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"Eric Hofbauer and the Infrared Band at Firehouse 13"

Eric Hofbauer has a way of thoughtfully deconstructing a standard. On the Boston guitarist's American Fear, there's a fractious spin on Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule the World" and a sweet blend of Duke Ellington and Hank Williams gems. With sharp plinks and rich chords, the guitarist makes us hear the classics anew. His Infrared Band, which comes to Firehouse 13, 41 Central Street, Providence, for an evening of jazz interplay, is a bit different, but no less engaging. On Myth Understanding (Creative Nation), the leader bounces through an array of swinging originals that aren't afraid to look around corners and investigate odd areas. Like most jazz, the music is based on nuance - careful listening is rewarded in numerous ways. Saxophonist Kelly Roberge is an able foil for Hofbauer, and their rhythm section is terrifically agile. The guitarist, a professor of jazz history at Emerson, explained his Beantown position to em magazine: "My reputation here on the Boston scene is that I'm the weird guitar player with the weird chords. Literally, they'll say this: ‘Oh, yeah I've heard of you, you're the guy who plays the weird chords.' But I'm fine with that, I've gotten over that. I've made that philosophical and artistic decision to do what I want to do the way I want to do it." At Firehouse 13, you'll find out he does it quite well, too. - Providence Phoenix


"Eric Hofbauer & the Infared Band: Myth Understanding (2008)"

Guitarist Hofbauer is a working definition of what it means to be respectful of the nebulous thing that is the tradition without treating it as though it's worthy only of reverence. It shows with this group just as much as it does in his work as a member of the Blueprint Project.
The music here is shot through with quirks so skillfully played that they seem integral to the success of its realization. There is for example, nothing even remotely self-conscious about "A Drunk Monk," wherein a line is seemingly subject to infinite variations and shadings making for deeply organic music, out of which Michael Montgomery's bass solo rises as naturally as the tide.

Reference has to be made to the very sound of this group. 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. Kelly Roberge's tenor sax sound is dry without being parched, and on the likes of "Jac Mac Talkin'" and "Molecular Mischief" he rolls out certain phrases as if his knowledge of the music goes back at least as far as saxophonist Flip Phillips. The ebullience that implies however is not put to use for grandstanding purposes; if such a thing as joyous consideration is a viable contention then it's on offer in this instance.

Similarly, Hofbauer himself comes up with a take on jazz guitar that sidesteps the usual with easy aplomb, his paradoxically dry yet resonant tone enlivening the theme statement on the "The Chump Killer," where his solo is a model of telling understatement which only goes to show that the most compelling story is often the one delivered by a considered voice. The work of drummer Miki Matsuki on this one is also in the same mold yet seemingly alert to every twist and turn the music takes.

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. - All About Jazz


"Eric Hofbauer and the Infared Band"

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. Maybe best of all is “A Drunk Monk,” which appears to have as much to do with Shaolin warriors as with Thelonious. Again, though, what will grab you is the tension of bassist Mike Montgomery’s lagging, syncopated two-bar ostinato against the quick 6/8 pulse and misterioso theme. Montgomery’s solo here is downright eloquent — spare and lyrical — and saxophonist Kelly Roberge builds smooth, concise phrases up to climactic ululations. Elsewhere, Hofbauer likes to break the band down into duo and trio passages. (Miki Matsuki is the capable drummer.) At times you might wish he trusted those grooves and melodies a bit more, but there’s always something to savor in these four-way conversations. And yes, “The Chump Killer” is inspired by Kung Fu Hustle. - Boston Phoenix


"Eric Hofbauer and the Infrared Band - Level (2011)"

Boston-based guitarist Eric Hofbauer penned the liner notes to his new album out today, Level, beginning it with the testimony that “the music on Level … explores the human condition using sound to tell stories.” He then goes on to explain that the album “offers nine mythology-themed pieces about duality in the universe and in life — two sides trying to find balance.” These are pretty metaphysical and abstract concepts he lays on his listeners, but it actually helps in understanding the concept behind the music and thus, the music itself.That’s because Level, the second album by the Hofbauer-led Infrared Band, flips often between two characters, a mainstream jazz one and a whack jazz one. Between extended song forms and short, compressed ideas. Between conventional tasks and stepping outside of those traditional duties to undertake unconventional ones.

Hobfbauer’s cavernous Guild guitar projects the directness he demands from his music, generating a tone not terribly dissimilar to Philip Catherine’s, but with the mindset of his contemporary, Jeff Parker. The rest of Infrared includes Kelly Roberge (tenor sax), Sean Farias (bass) and Miki Matsuki (drums). As the other front-line player, Roberge has good telepathy with Hofbauer, but Hofbauer wrote all nine songs with each band member in mind, having them often step outside of their instruments’ traditional roles to create the myths. That’s what lies at the heart of what drives the music on this album.

“These Two Things” kicks off the proceedings in a deceptively straightforward way, though with each passing listen more of the underlying elaborations of that esoteric melody reveals itself behind Roberge’s saxophone expressions. Things take a sharp turn for the eccentric on “La Ligne de Chance,” a deconstruction where each member takes turns improvising on mere shards of concepts. The duality of “The Faction” can be found in the melody of the guitar/sax competing against the counter-currents of Farias’ bass. “Murder For A Jar Of Red Rum” starts out as morbid as one would expect from a song with a title like that, but out of the haze briefly emerges a quaint, almost early jazz melody. “Pocket Chops” is a Monk-type tune as player by Hofbauer, but Roberge pushes it out to the fringes and Farias engages in an interesting dialogue with the guitarist. The three shorts have their own charms. Small, compacted ideas explore space and oh so little time, I especially like “Ghost And Giants” for Hofbauer’s eery blues plucking over a rumbling bass.

Eric Hofbauer & the Infrared Band’s Level might be trying to conjure up modern day mythology, but the sophistication and virtuosity that went into making these recordings is no made up story. No, these guys are for real. - Somethin' Else


"Eric Hofbauer and the Infrared Band Level Review"

Level is the second outing for Boston-based guitarist Eric Hofbauer's quartet after 2008's Myth Understanding. It explores the view of historian Joseph Campbell that the myths of the 21st century would be written in music and contains nine pieces that seek to investigate the duality of the universe. Although such a grand context would be invisible without the liner notes, Level is nevertheless an impressive contemporary jazz record full of space and fierce intelligence.
Level begins with clipped chords chopping out slices of melody until the band joins in, fleshing out the bones with tenor saxophonist Kelly Roberge formally defining the tune. Then a walking rhythm kicks in, Sean Farias' bass imparting a certain funkiness, Miki Matsuki's drums all soft cymbals. The track's tempo is a viscous affair, picking up and dropping off as the song demands. Its very fluidity – perhaps the most striking feature of opener These Two Things – is what both hints at and opposes the suggestion of M-Base's angular music of the 80s. There's both a well-worn familiarity about this music and an attractive obliqueness.
La Ligne De Chance begins in scratchier territory, sounding briefly like Derek Bailey-esque free improv, before a knowingness and tangential blues suggest something in the region of John Zorn. There's also that sense of melancholic occlusion that's often a characteristic of this type of music. Hofbauer's tone throughout is a pleasure, as is his playing: detailed and directed, measured and forceful when necessary.
The Faction proves the thesis that Hofbauer and his band embrace modernity over tradition, that very particular post-bop modern that can be traced from the Second Great Miles Davis Quintet and its offshoots through to such Dave Holland recordings as Extensions. The 11-minute Surely Some Revelation… begins in reflective mode with Hofbauer gradually picking out rhythm from sporadically plucked notes, which gradually increase in intensity like thoughts gaining momentum.
Ghosts and Giants is probably the most atmospheric composition on Level, awash with bursts of slide guitar like lost blues, sudden twists of sax and troubled bass. Closing track Pocket Chops suggests the wistful, blasted songs of Tom Waits circa Frank's Wild Years, sax blowing to and fro over walking bass and straight-ahead jazz guitar. - BBC Music


"Eric Hofbauer and The Infrared Band: Level (2011)"

Back in 2008 this band—the only change here being bassist Sean Farias in for Michael Montgomery—produced one of the best albums of that year. In 2011, they've gone and done it again.
Like Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols and Andrew Hill, guitarist Eric Hofbauer's music benefits enormously from having the right musicians to bring it to fruition, and in this instance he's blessed. His quartet effortlessly avoids all the well-established tropes; on "La Ligne De Chance," it brings the lack of rhetoric in Hofbauer's music to light, too. Lacking grand gestures as it does, this is a piece which pulses with the extraordinary depth of empathetic interplay that clearly comes quite naturally to these players.

That quality is enhanced by their individuality. Hofbauer avoids the customary modern jazz guitar vocabulary, just like he's always done. His work on "Murder For A Jar Of Red Rum" is that of a man for whom mere technical display smacks of no more than empty gestures, while tenor saxophonist Kelly Roberge embodies the playful spirit which is never far from the heart of the music. This is confirmed by the eerie way in which the piece is resolved, which, while it mirrors the opening passage, still highlights a band with no agenda other than that of making highly distinctive music.

The band goes effortlessly about the task of laying out unaccustomed territory on the lengthy "Surely Some Revelation," the opening passage confounding expectations until repeated listening renders obvious the quartet's highly persuasive logic. This is true even when the music settles into a generic post-bop groove, especially as that breaks down for Hofbauer to turn in an oblique, ear-pricking solo over Miki Matsuki's drums, where the influence of Ed Blackwell is noticeable, albeit obliquely.

With any luck, it won't be another three years for this quartet's next release, although it's entirely up to the individuals concerned as to what happens next. They can, it seems, effortlessly raise the bar with every release, so it'll be worth waiting for no matter how long it takes.

Track Listing: These Two Things; La Ligne De Chance; Castor And Pollux; The Faction; Murder For A Jar Of Red Rum; Surely Some Revelation; Spy Vs. Spy; Ghosts And Giants; Pocket Chops.

Personnel: Kelly Roberge: tenor sax; Eric Hofbauer: guitar; Sean Farias: bass; Miki Matsuki: drums. - All About Jazz


"Collected Reviews"

...[Hofbauer's] 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 tenor sax.
—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

I’ve always had a weakness for records that combine conceptual hi-jinks with sensusous sounds—records that hit both head and body—records that are complete musical experiences. On Myth Understanding Eric Hofbauer and his Infrared Band offer just that. This record is rewarding on every level.
—Michael Coyle, Cadence

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

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

...a lithe, smart quartet...Myth Understanding’s music speaks, flows and evolves as well as one could hope...It’s great stuff, and Hofbauer’s definitely found the right voices for his brand of avant-postbop.
—Nathan Turk, Signal To Noise

Recommended New Release
—David Adler, AllAboutJazz-New York

The quartet serves as a bright showcase for Hofbauer's multi-layered music, which basks in the contrapuntal and the conversational and is stocked with narrative lines and mythological allusions.
—Owen McNally, Hartford Courant

...a band with a good sense of humor as well as great musical intelligence...it's low-key yet probing (and challenging) music is quite delightful.
—Richard Kamins, The Middletown Eye - www.cnmpro.com


Discography

"Level" - 2011 CNM
"Myth Understanding" - 2007 CNM
All tracks are streaming on emusic, etc.
All tracks have had radio play.

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Bio

LEVEL is Boston-based guitarist/composer Eric Hofbauer’s second recording with his working quartet, The Infrared Band. Like its predecessor, 2008’s Myth Understanding (Creative Nation Music), this release revels in Hofbauer’s penchant for wit and wordplay (the title is a palindrome), but the primary concept behind his newest compositions is a thematic exploration of balance and duality.

“The music on LEVEL, like most of my work, explores the human condition using sound to tell stories,” writes Hofbauer in the liner notes. “Historian and writer Joseph Campbell believed the new myths of the 21st century would be written in music. LEVEL embraces that idea, and offers nine mythology-themed pieces about duality in the universe and in life—two sides trying to find balance.”

Inspired by the universal dichotomies of good vs. evil, fate vs. chance and conflict vs. resolution, these pieces also reference such narrative examples as the mythological twins Castor and Pollux, Act II, Scene I of Julius Caesar and the W.B. Yeats poem, “The Second Coming.” On a musical level, Hofbauer draws on styles ranging from the blues to bebop to free jazz to a 12-tone row, while also making allusions to Albert Ayler and Jelly Roll Morton among others.

“Hofbauer brings a wealth of historical antecedents to his playfully inventive compositions,” wrote AllAboutJazz.com’s Troy Collins in his review of Myth Understanding, which he called “a sterling debut.” The Providence Phoenix’s Jim Macnie adds, “the leader bounces through an array of swinging originals that aren’t afraid to look around corners and investigate odd areas. Like most jazz, the music is based on nuance—careful listening is rewarded in numerous ways. Saxophonist Kelly Roberge is an able foil for Hofbauer, and their rhythm section is terrifically agile.