Presented here is a collection of reviews for use in promotion of Holly Hofmann. Reviews can be printed or downloaded in DOC or PDF format.
The Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann Quintet
As one of the nation’s most gifted and respected jazz flutists, Holly Hofmann could be forgiven for tooting her own horn once in a while (if you’ll pardon the mixed musical metaphor).
But this longtime San Diego resident is happy to let her flawless musicianship and deeply felt playing speak for her. And she doesn’t need to sing her own praises, since so many others are happy to do so.
“She’s just head and shoulders above the rest of the flute players out there, at least the ones I’ve worked with,” said jazz guitar legend Mundell Lowe, whose past collaborators include such icons as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Benny Goodman.
Lowe’s wife, veteran jazz singer Betty Bennett, is equally effusive, saying: “Man or woman, Holly is the best flute player I’ve ever heard.”
Hofmann and the quintet she co-leads with her husband of 11 years, nationally acclaimed San Diego jazz pianist Mike Wofford, performs Saturday, November 26, in La Jolla. The concert concludes the 2011 Athenaeum Jazz at Neurosciences fall series.
Not coincidentally, she played as part of the Athenaeum’s first jazz series in 1989. Hofmann has since made at least 10 encore appearances under the auspices of the Athenaeum, in various musical configurations, at several area venues.
“Holly is a master of her instrument who plays with incredible technical precision, as well as with a great sense of passion and swing,” said Daniel Atkinson, the jazz programming coordinator for the Athenaeum.
Saturday’s concert is an album pre-release concert to preview “Turn Signal,” the Wofford/Hofmann quintet’s excellent upcoming release for Capri Records, which has also released five of her 11 solo albums.
The seven-song collection, which concludes with the Hofmann-penned “M-Line,” is a gem of musical concision and understatement. Due out in January, the album features rising jazz trumpet star Terell Stafford and the first-rate San Diego rhythm section of bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Richard Sellers. All five will perform Saturday.
“Holly is a fabulous musician whose sound is as warm and welcoming as her heart of gold,” Stafford said. “She is always there to listen, as well as play, which explains her impeccable musicianship.”
That high level of musicianship began in Cleveland.
It was there that Hofmann started playing flute — albeit a plastic one to start with — at the age of five. Her musical partner was her jazz guitarist father, with whom she would improvise on such chestnuts as “Summertime,” “Georgia On My Mind” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”
Hofmann started classical flute lessons at seven and went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical flute performance. But her first and biggest love is jazz.
“My dad listened to a lot of big bands and I was taken by soloists like (saxophonist) Johnny Hodges and (trumpeter) Dizzy Gillespie, who told me that my approach to the flute sounded like a trumpet player’s,” said Hofmann, who lives with her husband in a condo overlooking west Mission Valley.
Holly Hofmann and Mike Wofford
This is an astounding example of how two instruments can conjure up the richness of a complete orchestra by employing exceptional harmonics, talent and creativity. I've long been a fan of Mike Wofford. He is a marvelously talented pianist with a vast history of recording with some of the best talents in jazz. As a sensitive and astute accompanist and composer, Wofford has been sited on over a hundred recordings as a sideman. He was music director for both Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald at various times in his career. Hofmann is equally talented in her abilities and associations. Then Wofford and Hofmann are not on tour or in the studio, they are based in San Diego, California where they have been playing together for a number of years. When musicians work together for nearly two decades, it's bound to reflect in their presentation.These two have done it all;quartets to orchestral works. However this duo is a fresh challenge for both. There is something warm and romantic about their music. Right from the first tune, "More Than You Know" to Wofford's happy-go-lucky "Floof," there is a musical marriage here that's sensitive and relaxed. They are in perfect synchronization; two birds flying at the same speed in an innovative sky of creativity.
Dee Dee McNeil
Hofmann takes the flute off the jazz sidelines
by Andrew Gilbert
A short list of jazz’s iconic instruments would include the tenor saxophone, stand-up bass and trumpet. The flute probably ends up tagging along behind the violin, bass clarinet and vibraphone. Holly Hofmann is a leading force in changing that perception. A tough mainstream player who swings with authority, Hofmann brings a tonal heft to the instrument that it too often lacks in jazz settings. While she can interpret ballads with unabashed lyricism, she is just as likely to tear through a blues tune, artfully employing honks and growls. In a scene with a plethora of hard-charging horn players, Hofmann has gained considerable attention through her collaborations with some of jazz’s most revered musicians, including trombonist Slide Hampton, guitarist Mundell Lowe and saxophonist James Moody (who is also an accomplished flutist). Her longtime relationship with the late bass legend Ray Brown included stints when he anchored her quartet, and international tours when she was featured in his band, often over the protests of promoters who preferred a more traditional lineup.
“Dizzy once told me he thought I sound more like a trumpeter than any other instrument,” said Hofmann from her home in San Diego, referring to bebop patriarch Dizzy Gillespie. “Ray always told me that the reason I was touring with the trio is that I stomped on it. He had a big fight with half the promoters just to bring me. When he said flute, they said, ‘Oh, come on!’ There’s a preconception as to what that’s going to sound like. Now, I try to take stomping to the next level, to keep the sense of swing while reaching harmonically.”
Hofmann performs tonight as part of the San Ramon Library’s jazz concert series with her quartet, featuring Bay Area stalwarts Rob Fisher on bass and Vince Lateano on drums, and Mike Wofford, a brilliant pianist who served as musical director for Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. His 1992 Concord Jazz album “Mike Wofford at Maybeck” is one of the highlights of that prestigious solo recital series.
Frequent collaborators on the Southern California jazz scene for more than a decade, Wofford and Hofmann recently cemented their relationship off the band stand through marriage.
“The quartet has a pretty varied book,” Hofmann said. “We do originals, some Herbie Hancock tunes, John Scofield’s ‘Groovelation,’ and some of Ray’s arrangements, like Cole Porter’s ‘Every thing I Love.’ Mike and I are co-writing a lot of things, too.”
In many ways, Hofmann’s success flies in the face of the flute’s perennial position as a sideline instrument in jazz. The vast majority of jazz flutists double on the instrument, focusing most of their time on the saxophone.
While Wayman Carver brought the flute into Chick Webb’s popular swing orchestra in the 1930s, it wasn’t until the ‘50s that it gained popularity through the work of Buddy Collette, Bud Shan1c Paul Horn and Frank Wess (in the Count Basie Orchestra).
Herbie Mann has built a highly successful career with his Latin jazz flute work, but the instrument has been most thoroughly explored in avant-garde settings, with players such as Eric Dolphy, Price Lasha and Roland Kirk paving the way for James Newton, a brilliant improviser who now spends much of his time teaching and composing.
“One reason it hasn’t caught on is that it’s an incredibly difficult instrument to play ...,“ Hofmann said. “There just haven’t been enough players dedicated to bringing it into the main stream.”
Hofmann is leading the charge to rectify that situation, making a convincing case that in the right hands, the flute can hold its own against all the other horns.
-Andrew Gilbert Times Correspondent