Jazz flautist Holly Hofmann is well known to audiences in the US, including at the National Flute Association where she has appeared regularly, both as a solo artist and as a guest soloist with Ali Ryerson‘s Jazz Flute Big Band. If she was based in New York City instead of San Diego she would probably get more recognition from jazz critics, although she gets plenty; her appearances with Ryerson and Frank Wess in the three-flute group Flutology, followed by a string of beautifully crafted recordings, with Capri and Azica records, have helped establish her as one of the leading flute soloists in jazz.
Hofmann occupies a stylistic area in jazz right down the middle of its mainstream, a now-classic genre built, like all classical genres, upon a perfect balance of elements–rhythmic, melodic and harmonic. When executed well, this music can stimulate, delight and still surprise. ￼
All of this holds true for Low Life, although there is an unexpected element: for the first time, Hofmann plays alto flute exclusively throughout a recording. Apart from the duo recordings Ryerson made with guitarist Joe Beck (1997 & 2001), I do not know of any other examples of this; many jazz flutists employ the alto, often to good effect, but usually as a change of pace from the concert flute. In Hofmann’s case, devoting a whole album to the alto has influenced her approach not only to her solo work but to the repertoire and the general effect of the music. As Holly told me, she wanted to create something like an ‘easy listening’ record but “without the pablum . . . simply arranged songs that show the beauty of the music and the alto flute, something people can put on for a long drive, or while they make dinner, but which still holds up as a jazz album.”
She is entirely successful in this. Her handling of the alto is flawless, her accompanists are carefully chosen, top professionals and the arrangements perfectly reflect the aesthetic of Hofmann’s featured instrument. This recording is essential listening to all interested in the alto flute in jazz.
Personnel: Holly Hofmann: alto flute; Mike Wofford: piano; John Clayton: bass; Anthony Wilson: guitar; Jeff Hamilton: drums.
Tracks: 1. Jack Of Hearts; 2. Touch The Fog; 3. Grow (For Dick Oatts); 4. Lumiere De La Vie; 5. Cedar Would; 6. The Very Thought Of You; 7. Make Me Rainbows; 8. Soul-Leo; 9. Farmer’s Trust.
This review is adapted from one due to appear later this year in PAN, the magazine of the British Flute Society and is used by permission.
Review by Peter Westbrook Author of The Flute in Jazz: Window on World Music (Harmonia Books, 2011)
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