top of page


prehistoric jazz


ERIC HOFBAUER(guitar) “has become a significant force in Boston’s improvised-music scene,” declares Stereophile’s David R. Adler. “His aesthetic evokes old blues, Americana, Tin Pan Alley, bebop, and further frontiers. There’s a rule-breaking spirit but also an impeccable rigor, a foundation of sheer chops and knowledge, that put Hofbauer in the top tier of guitarists.” Hofbauer has been integral to Boston’s jazz scene for twenty-five years, as a musician, bandleader, organizer and educator. Recognized in the 2022, 2019 and 2017 DownBeat Critics’ Poll for Rising Star – Guitar, he is widely known for his solo guitar work, featured in a collection of solo guitar recordings (American Vanity, American Fear, American Grace and Ghost Frets), and as the leader of the Eric Hofbauer Quintet (EHQ). The EHQ’s series of four “Prehistoric Jazz” recordings, featuring Hofbauer’s jazz arrangements of Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ellington, and Ives, placed consecutively on the Boston Globe’s Top 10 Jazz Albums of the Year lists, and received critical acclaim from leading press such as Downbeat, The Wire, and Tone Audio. Hofbauer has also performed and recorded alongside such notable collaborators as Han Bennink, Roy Campbell, Jr., John Tchicai, Garrison Fewell, Cecil McBee, George Garzone, Sean Jones, John Fedchock, Steve Swell and Matt Wilson.
CURT NEWTON (drums) coaxes whispers from drumsets and swing from stacks of rattly stuff, weaving varied musical traditions together in the spirit of serious playfulness. Over the past three decades, Curt has performed across the U.S., Canada and Europe and appears on over 30 CDs with some of contemporary music's leading figures including Ken Vandermark, Joe Morris, Nate McBride, Pandelis Karayorgis, Charlie Kohlhase, Dave Bryant, and Steve Norton, and most recently as the drummer in the Eric Hofbauer Quintet. About one live performance, the Chicago Reader’s Peter Margasak wrote “Newton dazzles...He exhibited breathtaking restraint, breaking down time with a subtle hand, tapping out painterly splashes of sound." Curt studied privately with Bob Gullotti, has a Master's degree in Jazz Performance from New England Conservatory, and once upon a time created a solo drumset arrangement of Lutoslawski's String Quartet (available on Bandcamp). Curt is also a climate change community builder and activist, and the proud parent of two musically-inclined young adults.

JERRY SABATINI has gained recognition in the Boston jazz scene as an adventurous, creative and diverse trumpet player, composer and educator. Known for his diverse musical tastes, Jerry performs in projects ranging from traditional Jazz to Balkan brass bands to music of the Middle and Far East to the Avant Garde. For the past twenty five years he has been working with many of the New England’s great bands such as The Boston Jazz Composer’s Alliance, The Makanda Project, Garrison Fewell’s Variable Density Orchestra, Mehmet Sanlikol’s Dunya, The Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, and Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorers Club. He has also shared the stage with influential musicians such as Oliver Lake, John Tchicai, Fred Frith, Elliot Sharp, Anthony Coleman, and Erkan Oğur. Since 1995, Jerry has composed and arranged for his own project, an octet called Sonic Explorers. Sonic Explorers have four independently released CDs. Sabatini has been commissioned for modern big band and jazz combo works, teaches privately, and is a frequent clinician and conductor at New England colleges, universities and high schools.

TODD BRUNEL is a critically acclaimed clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer who performs extensively as a classical and improvisational musician. He produces The Vortex Series for New and Improvised Music and is a grant recipient from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Cambridge Arts Council, the Somerville Arts Council and Art Without Borders. Brunel and his various groups have performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Boston Jazz Festival, The National Black Arts Festival, Mobius, The International Woodwind Festival, Preservation Jazz Hall, and the American Microtonal Festival under the direction of Johnny Reinhard. His work with conductor and composer Lawrence D. ‘Butch’ Morris includes the New York Skyscraper Conductions #73-76 at Context and the New England Skyscraper Conductions #151-153. As a classical freelance musician, Mr. Brunel’s performance schedule includes ALEA III, the Boston Chamber Ensemble, the Lexington Symphony, the Bulgarian Virtuosi, The New Bedford Symphony, the Waltham Symphony, the Claflin Hill Symphony and the Chagall Performance Art Collaborative. Brunel teaches at Wheaton College.

JUNKO FUJIWARA is both a creative musician/improviser and an active classical player performing in venues throughout the East Coast and the Midwest. Her current performing groups include: BOLT: Adventurous Improvised Music, The Mimi Rabson Trio, a semi-improvised/original composition trio, Evocation Trio based out of Milwaukee, the Cuban fusion quartet Di Evano Project headed by the world music award-winning Irais diBrito, the classical chamber group Kalliope Piano Trio. Ms. Fujiwara holds cello faculty positions at Boston College, Governor’s Academy, Masconomet Regional School in Topsfield, and Ipswich Public Schools. Ms. Fujiwara has a Master of Music degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a Bachelor of Music degree from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Junko Fujiwara can be heard on Joe Morris’s recording Camera (ESP 4063) (2010) Mimi Rabson’s Strings Theory (2012), and Evocation Trio’s Ghosts of the Sea (2013).


Prehistoric Jazz is a concert program and sister recordings (volumes 1 and 2 released in 2014, volume 3 in 2016, volume 4 in 2017) which features Hofbauer’s jazz quintet arrangements of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Messiaen’s Quartet For The End Of Time, and Charles Ives’ Three Places in New England. The 2016-18 concert seasons features premiere performances of Hofbauer’s newest arrangement of Reminiscing in Tempo, a rare, long-form, through composed piece from 1935 by Duke Ellington. Noted historian and writer Kevin Whitehead defines the “Prehistoric Jazz series [as] less about jazzing the classics than situating the last century’s classical music and classic jazz in the same modernist continuum.”

The program title was inspired by video footage of Leonard Bernstein rehearsing The Rite of Spring in 1987 where he instructs the timpanist to play his part like “prehistoric jazz.” All four of Hofbauer’s quintet arrangements celebrate the common ground between modern jazz and the works of Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ives and Ellington by using the shared rhythmic and harmonic concepts of the 20th century modernists as a bridge to postmodern jazz improvisation. This method of synthesis and reinterpretation has been a part of the jazz tradition from its inception through the work of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and even Gunther Schuller’s Third Stream movement.

In November of 2014 the EHQ recordings Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1 (The Rite of Spring) and Volume 2 (Quartet for The End of Time) were featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, as well as appearing on several year-end ‘best of’ lists for new jazz releases. In 2016 Prehistoric Jazz Volume 3 (Three Places in New England) was on the Boston Globe’s Top Ten Jazz Albums list, and featured in Downbeat (4 star review), The WireTone Audio , and Textura magazines, among others. The EHQ also performed at the historic BOZAR Theatre in Brussels Belgium in 2016. The band was part of the “Stravinsky Deconstructed” Festival and helped kick off BOZAR’s jazz concert season.

The quintet features Eric Hofbauer on guitar, Todd Brunel on clarinet and bass clarinet, Jerry Sabatini on trumpet, Junko Fujiwara on cello and Curt Newton on drum set. All of the musicians are accomplished jazz and new music improvisers who also perform in classical and modern music settings.

With four major pieces in the EHQ’s repertoire, the ensemble has over four hours of music to choose from to craft unique programming to fit everything from the concert hall to club stage.  Prehistoric Jazz repertoire can also be tailored for the collegiate community or any arts and culture education-based audience. This concert presentation will complement college or high school course work in aesthetics, music history, jazz studies, post-modernism, or 20thcentury cultural studies. The ensemble is available for additional workshops and talk-backs with the audience that can be included as part of the presentation of the work.

Five Questions – Textura Magazine interview about Prehistoric Jazz & EHQ

bottom of page