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 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). 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.
Hofbauer has earned critical acclaim for his work in a variety of musical projects, including recordings with the Garrison Fewell’s Variable Density Orchestra, The Pablo Ablanedo Octet(o), Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorer’s Club, and The Blueprint Project with Han Bennink among others. Most notable among his projects is the EHQ’s series of four “Prehistoric Jazz” recordings, featuring Hofbauer’s jazz arrangements of Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ellington, and Ives. These have 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 received a Master’s degree from New England Conservatory and a Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory. At the Longy School of Music at Bard College, Hofbauer teaches guitar, the artist portfolio project, and two courses he designed especially for the graduate department. The first is Solo Flight, a seminar on developing a stylized solo repertoire, and Prehistoric Jazz, an advanced chamber group exploring the synthesis of jazz and classical element a la his own EHQ arrangements. Hofbauer also lectures on jazz history at Emerson College. He previously held positions at Clark University and University of Rhode Island, and was also a visiting professor at Wellesley College. In 2009, he was honored with the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in Music Composition.
Over the past two decades, Boston-based guitarist/composer Eric Hofbauer has performed and recorded alongside a notable and diverse collection of collaborators, but he is perhaps best known for his innovative work as a solo artist.
His three acclaimed solo guitar releases, American Vanity (Creative Nation Music, 2004), American Fear (Creative Nation Music, 2010) and American Grace (Creative Nation Music, 2012), represent a trilogy of recordings that dissect and examine American culture through spontaneous original compositions and stripped-down interpretations of musical touchstones that span country, jazz and rock. Of the trilogy, Andrew Gilbert of The Boston Globe writes, “No other guitarist in jazz has developed a solo approach as rigorous, evocative, and thoughtful as Hofbauer." His most recent solo release Ghost Frets, was described by Chris Haines of The Free Jazz Collective “as a real testament to Hofbauer’s musical style and vision…The playing is virtuosic throughout providing a real master class in creative solo performance.” Ghost Frets is a tribute to Hofbauer’s departed friend and frequent collaborator, Garrison Fewell, and features several Fewell compositions as well as pieces by diverse artists including Eric Dolphy, George Harrison, and the Psychedelic Furs!
Either in performance or on record, Hofbauer's stark, personal statements showcase not only his undeniable skills as a musician, but also his trademark intelligence and humor, as he deftly puts his own affable, sometimes jaw-dropping spin on the music of everyone from Johnny Cash and Hank Williams to Andrew Hill and Charlie Parker to Nirvana and Van Halen.
“Technically Hofbauer can obviously play the standard jazz guitar game,” writes Signal To Noise’s Robert Iannapollo, “but it’s clear he doesn’t want to be hemmed in by the clichés of its tradition.”Critics have called his music “intriguingly original” (Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes), “both mischievous and playful” (Edwin Pouncey, Jazzwise) and “as unassumingly compelling as anything out there” (Nic Jones, AllAboutJazz.com).
In his review of American Fear, AllAboutJazz-New York’s Tom Greenland adds, “For all its variety, drawing on recognizable elements of jazz and other musical traditions, Hofbauer’s voice emerges here unique and distinct, blending the comedic with the tragic, and having some serious fun.”