swinging at the intersection of bop and freedom
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.
DAN ROSENTHAL(trumpet) is a Boston-based trumpeter, composer, and educator. He is an Assistant Professor of Ear Training at Berklee College of Music, and a trumpet instructor at MIT. He has released two CDs as a leader, Music in the Room (2017), and Lines (2012). Dan also performs with his father, Grammy-nominated bluegrass singer and string-player, Phil Rosenthal. They have released two albums together, Fly Away (2013), and Down the Road (2016), blending folk, jazz and bluegrass styles. Rosenthal is an in-demand sideman, performing with many well-regarded jazz groups in Boston and beyond. He has been a member of the Grammy nominated jazz/latin/Ethiopian ensemble, The Either/Orchestra, since 2006. With the E/O, Dan has performed at stages throughout North America, Europe and Africa. Rosenthal is also member of Charlie Kohlhase's Explorers Club and Ayn Inserto's Jazz Orchestra.
Recent performance highlights include: Montreal Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, National Theater (Addis Ababa), Alliance Francaise (Dire Diwa), Moers Jazz Festival (Germany), and the Glastonbury Festival (UK).
Dan has performed and recorded with Eithiopian music legends Mulatu Atstatke and Mahmoud Ahmed. He has shared the stage with jazz icons Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton, Joe Morris, Bob Brookmeyer, Medeski Martin and Wood, George Garzone, Ben Monder, Miguel Zenon, Matt Wilson, Tony Malaby, Frank Lacy and Yoron Israel.
THE HOFBAUER/ROSENTHAL QUARTET (HRq), co-led by guitarist Eric Hofbauer and trumpeter Daniel Rosenthal, unites four imaginative improvisors from Boston’s eclectic jazz scene. There’s a non-hierarchal notion of the ensemble in this project, an ideal of equality built into every aspect, from the repertoire (which features each member as composer), to how the quartet challenges notions of soloing and accompaniment. Completed by bassist Aaron Darrell and drummer Austin McMahon, the Hofbauer Rosenthal Quartet has all the elements in place, and a selfless determination to wield them for the greater creative whole.
Human Resources, their debut release, is an album entirely of original tunes, unabashedly swinging, with an intimate and uncommonly vivid acoustic aesthetic. “I’m drawn to folks who have big ears, no limits, welcoming beliefs, and willingness for sonic adventures,” says Hofbauer of his bandmates. “With Dan, Aaron and Austin we have that connection and interest in exploring the intersections, the gray overlapping spots where styles, lexicon, vocabulary, concepts of time and technique are not confined by scene, clique or academic rules about what jazz is or isn’t.”
Rosenthal’s dynamically sensitive horn and Hofbauer’s warm, Guild guitar (played with fingers, no pick) combine for some of the most absorbingly precise and inventive “heads” to be heard in current jazz. For example, “Nice Weather,” a Rosenthal composition, boasts a unison line that, like many of the themes on Human Resources, isn’t exactly a unison line. Hofbauer’s parts are mini-orchestrations, with counter-lines splitting off from the trumpet, or close-voiced chordal or intervallic stabs that flesh out the harmonic and rhythmic logic of the sequence at hand.
The rigor of the concept, and the effortless feel that Rosenthal and Hofbauer bring to their melody work, harks back to the legacy of Bird and Dizzy or more so Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry — an area where the clarity and control of bop and the brash freedom and dissonance of the avant-garde meet.
Given its improvisational and interpretive mastery, the Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet is well equipped to shine new light on the meaning of “human resources.” Here are four musical explorers, committed to risk-taking and the cultivation of total trust; each a consummate professional, versatile in his own ingenious way, looking to the whole of music for inspiration. And, again and again, finding it.
AARON DARRELL (bass) was born in Selma, Alabama in 1987. A lifelong performer, Aaron has participated in countless choirs, and performed touring operas as a child. He received his bachelor’s Degree from Berklee College of Music with a concentration in Composition and Performance on the Double Bass. He has studied bass with Dave Santoro, Victor Wooten, Drew Gress, Katy McGinn, John Lockwood, and Chuck Israels. Other influential instructors were Yakov Gubanov, David Aiken, Ed Tomassi, Greg Osby, and Hal Crook. Aaron has performed his own original music and led workshops about improvisation, ensemble playing, and composition in over 25 U.S. states and several countries in Europe. He has currently integrated into the Boston music scene and can be found performing with his own projects widely varying in genre and appeal, as well as groups with Charlie Kohlhase, Curt Newton, Pandelis Karayorgis, Jorrit Dijkstra, Eric Hofbauer, Forbes Graham, Garrison Fewell, and more. Aaron also enjoys spending time drawing, reading, sharing food, learning about sustainability, health, and increasing inner resonance.
AUSTIN McMAHON(drums) performs regularly with Jerry Bergonzi’s Quartet and has recently performed or recorded with Sean Jones, George Garzone, Joe Lovano, Lionel Loueke, Ben Monder, Lage Lund, Kate McGarry, Noah Preminger, Jason Palmer and Grace Kelly. He has appeared as an opening act for Dianne Reeves and Esperanza Spalding.
Performance highlights include, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Discover Jazz Festival, the Young Jazz in Town Festival (Italy), the Casa de Teatro Jazz Festival (Dominican Republic), and the Ballydehob International Jazz Festival (Ireland).
McMahon is the winner of the 9th annual Independent Music Awards for Jazz Song Category and Nominee for Best Jazz Album in the 11th annual IMA's. His debut CD Many Muses was selected as a CDBaby Editor’s pick and described as "subtle, reverential to tradition, and thoroughly new." He was featured on NPR JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater, WLRN Miami (NPR) and live on WGBH radio, Boston, MA.
Austin teaches in the Jazz Department at New England Conservatory Preparatory and Continuing Education Division, Boston, MA and was a Teaching Assistant for Jazz Improvisation at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA for six years. He has given masterclasses at Harvard University, University of Miami, University of Mainz (Germany), and schools throughout the US. Austin is the co-founder of the record label Fractamodi (fractamodi.com).