Eric Hofbauer

Pendulabellum

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This little gem of a trio CD dates from 1998 and unfortunately seems to have vanished into just about as much obscurity, at least in terms of North Carolina history, as the exact details of the Klan/Nazi shoot-out in Greensboro in the previous decade. The previous sentence supposedly should attract attention to the CD even while acknowledging that it didn't receive enough at the time, based on the popular concept that linkage with some violent, sensational topic is good for business. Really good jazz has never attracted the commerce it ought to, granted, a pity considering how beautiful some performances truly are. Since the biggest audience for certain types of jazz sometimes seems to be other musicians, their reactions to this trio of piano, winds, and guitar may be helpful in attracting the right kind of attention. From the opening, "Blessing in Disguise," one of two Jared Sims compositions in an almost entirely Tyson Rogers program, the schooled jazz player or enthusiast is almost certain to remark something along the lines of "Wow, that is really great ensemble playing! These heads sound really beautiful." Meanwhile, some musicians may be thinking "I could make a record like that, too, if I got enough time in the studio for a change." So this is a good time to point out that Pendulabellum was indeed recorded live, apparently all in one evening. These three players have continued working together, cutting an album with drummer Han Bennink in 2004. They work together extremely well, whether swirling in sympathy or clanking a clashing contrast; one example of the latter would be Sims' scrumptious soprano saxophone, a country mile ahead of the others down the trail, smoke signals wafting back. The particular instrumented combination allows the melodic and harmonic content of the written passages to glow without any time of rhythm section support or distraction. It is really hard to find a piece for which this direction does not work, as talented as the players are in coming up with different ways to arrange the three voices and dole out responsibilities of time-keeping. Clarity is rampant; sense-keeping is thereby not required. Jazz piano tradition is quite safe, at least in North Carolina, with players such as Rogers and David Fox swinging their way through one perilously abstract situation after another. Guitarist Eric Hofbauer is often the one really holding everything together with a selection of carefully selected contributions -- he never overplays.

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