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July/August 2007

Holly Hofmann & Mike Wofford
Live at Athenaeum Jazz, Vol. 2
Capri Records

This is a coupling that transcends mere jazz. Flutist Holly Hofmann and pianist Mike Wofford provide melody, harmony, rhythm and improvisation so completely that any perceptive listener would never bemoan the lack of bass and drums. The chemistry resulting from their loosely arranged explorations is so instinctive, the duo seems to be straddling the nebulous line that separates a jazz combo from the kind of duo that only interprets flute sonata literature.

The very first track is the first that impresses: Wofford with his brilliantly re-harmonized version of Vincent Youmans’ dark intro to “More Than You Know”; Hofmann with her gossamer vibrato and flawless trill on alto flute; and both for their uncanny sense of time, all the more difficult on a slow ballad. It’s even harder to accomplish when you execute an uptempo rubato, which they do on a Wofford original, “Floof.” The pair’s anticipatory musical sense comes through most impressively on Monk’s “Eronol,” when their simultaneous improvisations, following the trading of fours, evolve into pure counterpoint. With all the subtleties of implied pulse going on, the two Latin tracks, Hofmann’s original, “Presentimiento,” and “Out of This World,” offer a rhythmic respite, as does Wofford’s one excursion into stride, “Exactly Like You.”

Two flirtations with classical chamber music offer another contrast. Monk’s seldom-heard “Introspection” couldn’t be better named. Another tribute, to Samuel Barber, “Free Day,” is based on his often-played “Adagio for Strings,” but Wofford confines it to a well-disguised thematic fragment that may be difficult to discern. It features the most intense and dramatic playing by Hofmann, whose low register has inspired hubby Wofford to label her “the Ben Webster of the flute.”

Originally published in July/August 2007
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