Week in the knees

Jazz Week kicks out the jams, plus Bley and Zorn
By JON GARELICK  |  April 28, 2008

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COOKIN’ WITH GAS: Eric Hofbauer likes to pump his own, thanks.
“Jazz Week,” which runs April 26–May 4, tends to appropriate all events to its needs — if you’re playing, say, your regularly scheduled gig at Matt Murphy’s Pub this week, you’re part of Jazz Week. But the event, which is spearheaded by the non-profit collective JazzBoston, does beef up the jazz calendar: venues not used to jazz are urged to try it, with the promise of some free publicity, and others attempt the unique. Jazz pianist Pierre Hurrel is conducting a performance/demonstration called “How Jazz Happens” in an early show at the Regattabar on Monday, and the Boston Public Library is hosting a week of jazz-related lectures and panel discussions. And a big, multi-act benefit concert called “A Kaleidoscopic View of Jazz in Boston,” headlined by poet Robert Pinsky and percussionist/composer Rakalam Bob Moses, is set for May 3.

There are other events that might have happened with or without Jazz Week but serve the cause well. The three-night stand of Eric Hofbauer and his Creative Nation Music label at the Lily Pad (April 30–May 2). And young alto-sax star Miguel Zenón’s concert at the Jorge Hernández Cultural Center (May 1).

Guitarist Hofbauer, 34, is the soul of DIY. He started Creative Nation a few years ago to front various projects — his own and others’ CDs as well as concerts. At the Lily Pad, he’ll play with his Infrared Band on April 30 (previewing their forthcoming Myth Understanding), the duo of Hofbauer and guitarist Garrison Fewell will play music from The Lady of Khartoum (May 1), and the trio of bassist Giacomo Merega, guitarist David Tronzo, and saxophonist Noah Kaplan will perform music from The Light and Other Things (May 2).

The Lady of Khartoum is a beauty that emerged as Hofbauer and Fewell discussed their disparate interests — Fewell’s world travels, Hofbauer’s teaching gigs, and “different musical techniques that bridge the cultural divide,” as Hofbauer tells me over the phone. So Fewell dragged a trunk of his world-percussion toys from Africa and the Middle East into a studio and Hofbauer joined him for a series of entirely improvised pieces. Although there was no plan, these “free” pieces do hover around tonal centers or ride on gentle rhythmic vamps. The extremes come in the way the duo doctored their instruments — Fewell’s electric, Hofbauer’s acoustic. There are also a few written pieces (including Monk’s “Let’s Cool One”). But the freely improvised pieces are impressive for their consistent mood. “We never said, ‘Oh let’s do the West African–sounding thing next,’ ” says Hofbauer. “Or, ‘Let’s really focus on the cross-cultural pollination of this music.’ It was much more natural — just grab some bells or something and just start and see what happens.”

The humorous, off-kilter “Dogon Delta Blues” came after “one of the more intense, introspective, modal type pieces. We wanted to do something drastic.” So Fewell attached some alligator clips and paper clips to his strings and Hofbauer put a business card under his to conjure a banjo. “Cajun Raven” began with Fewell vamping in F; that for some reason reminded Hofbauer of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” so he began to superimpose an oblique version of the melody on top, using an Altoids box as a slide. Ten percent of sales from this lucid, affecting CD goes to Mercy Corps.

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  Topics: Jazz , Miguel Zenon, Mercy Corps, Eric Hofbauer,  More more >
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