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Pilhofer Jazz Quartet: Full Circle

Since coming from Germany in the mid 1950s, Herb Pilhofer has spent much of the past 45 years as a successful commercial musician in Minneapolis, working as a hired gun in recording studios and at the Guthrie Theater. In recent years, though, he’s had the itch to get back to the creative improvising that inspired him as young man, so he’s returned to his roots with Full Circle (DMP CD-531; 52:30). This DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recording features his quartet including vibist Steve Yeager, bassist Gordy Johnson and his son, drummer Michael Pilhofer. The music is well played, pleasant and totally nonthreatening, without any dissonance or rough edges. Pilhofer deserves extra credit for trying to do something with Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie #1,” even if it doesn’t really go anywhere, and it’s always nice to hear Stan Hasselgard’s “Swedish Pastry.” There’s also a lovely piece by Brazilian composer Marcos Valle titled “Bodas de Sanque.” Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of momentum or drive in these tracks, perhaps because the bassist is the only one playing with any fire. Is this quartet willing to hit the road and play together every night for a while? Right now it sounds like they’re playing just for kicks.

Originally Published