Serve and Volley

Paul Hofmann / Bob Sneider

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Serve and Volley Review

by Ken Dryden

It is surprising that there aren't more jazz guitar-piano duo recordings, though some artists enjoy the safety net of having bass and drums, even if the additional two instruments can also be restricting. Guitarist Bob Sneider and pianist Paul Hofmann, both of whom are faculty members at the Eastman School of Music, delight in the freedom of a duo setting, diving headfirst into McCoy Tyner's rarely recorded uptempo blues "Inception." The late pianist Bill Evans' "Peri's Scope" is a buoyant bop vehicle with lively unison lines and joyful improvising. Hofmann penned the tribute "I Remember Bill Evans" not long after the pianist's death. This beautiful piece, which begins as a ballad, incorporates very brief references to "Nardis" (an Evans favorite) in several spots, though it evolves into a brisk waltz reminiscent of the pianist's "Very Early." Hofmann's five-part suite "Serve and Volley" proves to be a terrific vehicle for the two players, who not only exchange potent phrases but delight in the crafty ensemble passages penned by the pianist. Sneider's compositions are equally enjoyable. He switches to acoustic guitar for his engaging "Samba Getz," displaying formidable chops in his salute to the late tenor saxophonist. Sneider remains on acoustic guitar for his majestic "High Peaks."

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