What Hofbauer has done here is create an atmosphere that takes Ives's piece through various stages of jazz. One hears a touch of early New Orleans, Duke Ellington's "jungle music", swing, bop and more, doubling the piece from its 20-minute structure with the additions of solos and group-within-the-Quintet interaction. The real joy is how well this approach works. All the musicians are stalwarts. The crisp electro-acoustic sound of Hofbauer, the classically inspired tones of Sabatini's trumpet, the round sounds and "hot" swing of Brunel's clarinet, and the drive plus the colors that Newton produces. Extra credit should go to Ms. Fujiwara as both her arco and pizzicato work are par excellence (she "walks" a bass line with the fluidity of Ron Carter and Christian McBride). Just listen how the Quintet creates an amazing amount of musical heat (while maintaining a fine sense of humor) on "Putnam's Camp, Redding Connecticut" yet also allows for Ives's melodies and "quotes" to be heard. Guitarist Bill Frisell recorded "The "St. Gauden's" in Boston Common", the composer's tribute to the sculpture dedicated to the first African American regiment to fight in the Civil War. While Frisell's 1993 version was fairly short, Hofbauer stretches this performance to 17 minutes, going in so many different directions.
Here's the final track on the album:
Whether it's the slide guitar reading of the Harrison song (an impressionistic opening leads to a bluesy and intoxicated reading of the melody) or the traditional yet contemporary take on "Buddy Bolden's Blues", this music is engrossing. Monk's tune has a pleasing swing and like that master's music, is filled with rhythmic surprises. "The Ghost In You" has a fine melody and a lightness that lasts the entire piece. Not surprisingly, "Out to Lunch" displays the angularity and playfulness of the original. The improvised pieces runs from the percussive "Masafir" (the guitarist creating the rhythm plucking the strings behind the bridge) to the playful rhythmic swing of "Scratchadelic" (listen and you'll understand the song's title) and on to the Monk-inspired "Meet @ Office, Midnight" (a bluesy ballad) to the album closer "A Sognare di Bergamo" (another ballad, this one with a Romantic classical feel).
"Ghost Frets" also includes liner notes from David Adler that are well worth checking out, especially for the explanation of the relationship Eric Hofbauer had with Garrison Fewell. The album is a tribute but not in the traditional sense. Yes, it celebrates the relationship of the two musicians but also celebrates the artist's connection to music. Music this good has stories embedded in the notes and the performances, in the slide of the guitarist's fingers on the fret board, on the strength of the plucked notes and chords. Each listener will find different ways into this music but, with patience and a sense of curiosity, each person will be rewarded.
For more information, go to erichofbauer.com.
Take a listen to the "King" Oliver tune - the album is available only through Bandcamp - click on "buy" below to do just that: