Despite the sobriety of its title, Holly Hofmann’s 12th album is anything but clinical or cynical. Rather, it’s Hofmann’s celebration of the alto flute, a supple instrument of especially sultry timbre. Largely midtempo and expertly played, this album is beautiful, like the special flute it elevates to such rare profile. No matter the tune, Hofmann presses heart into the service of breath, animating a low-key catholic repertoire with a passion all the more captivating for its restraint. With pianist/husband Mike Wofford, bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and, on four tracks, guitarist Anthony Wilson, Hofmann has crafted an album that, easy as it is to listen to, never defaults to the predictable.
Crisply produced by Wofford and Thomas Burns, its nine selections span Pat Metheny’s plangent and aspirational ballad “Farmer’s Trust,” Mulgrew Miller’s sensuous, Latino “Soul-Leo,” Wilson’s well-tailored “Jack of Hearts” and the mystical “Lumiere de la Vie,” a moody Hofmann composition that showcases the master flutist at her most deliberate and generous.
The empathy present here is striking. Check out how Wofford follows Hofmann on “Lumiere,” his solo respectful and spare. Roll with drummer Hamilton as he propels the debonair “Cedar Would,” Clayton’s homage to former Jazz Messenger Cedar Walton. Immerse yourself in Clayton’s “Touch the Fog,” a noir-ish, chamber-like track in which Hofmann stretches out, her sound warm, her phrasing a caress.