Bob Sneider & Paul Hofmann
In the 1960s, Jim Hall and Bill Evans released two classic guitar-piano jazz duet albums: Undercurrent (United Artists) and Intermodulation (Verve). Deeply inspired by Hall-Evans and other classic jazz duos, notably Nat Cole & Oscar Moore, Chick Corea & Gary Burton, guitarist Bob Sneider and pianist Paul Hofmann have created Interconnection.
Tightly-knit arrangements and ensemble sections give this recording its beauty and intensity. With the exception of the solo sections, each note is carefully written down and performed with exceptional technique and expression.
Jazz Suite for Guitar and Piano (19:14)
01 A Good Book (4:44)
02 Another Cup Of Tea (5:16)
03 Azure Dreams (4:43)
04 Heart Of The Matter (4:28)
05 Mood Indigo aka Dreamy Blues (6:29)
06 Rumblin' (6:36)
07 Desafinado (5:51)
08 Scooby (6:25)
09 A Place To Hide (5:20)
10 Bidin' My Time (5:00)
11 Benjamin (4:09)
12 Mini Me (4:53)
13 This Town (5:34)
The first thing to notice about Interconnection is just how seamlessly Bob Sneider and Paul Hofmann do connect. Pianists and guitarists often find it difficult to coexist in an improvisational setting, and piano/guitar duos are rare; but check out the pairs that have worked in this context (Bill Evans and Jim Hall, Gil Goldstein and Pat Martino, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass, Benny Green and Russell Malone) and you find that their empathy extends beyond technique and harmonic intelligence to attitude. Each player does not merely follow the other; he is inclined by temperament to do so. Ditto Sneider and Hofmann.
This duo also sustains its voice across styles. When Sneider and Hofmann play Jobim, they phrase like Gilberto, and when they play Ellington, they capture the reverie Duke intended to convey. This is not akin to a period-instrument brand of "authenticity," for the duo is clearly contemporary in its vision and language; it is simply a determination to honor a composition's integrity, and the absence of any urge to offer calculated self-professions of newness and hipness.
When turning to their own creations, Sneider and Hofmann are just as eloquent. I suspect this can be attributed in part to the subjects that they look to for inspiration. Drawing upon family (even, in one instance, a family pet), they uncover life-sized emotions unsullied by technical or emotional posturing. Individual takes on the same subject ("Benjamin" and "Mini Me") only reinforce the pervasive sense of agreement. Sneider and Hofmann are real people with real emotions, which make them even greater musicians.
— Bob Blumenthal
"Jazz Suite for Guitar and Piano" is an original suite by Hofmann encompassing different moods, textures and styles. It ranges from a fast swing to medium bossa to an 'Ellingtonian' ballad and concludes with a swift movement featuring both Latin and swing rhythms. Each section is a stand-alone piece: the four movements are individually tracked and assembled into the overall suite which is dedicated to Paul's wife, Ivy.
Hofmann's arrangement of "Mood Indigo" (aka "Dreamy Blues," first popularized in 1930) is dedicated to Paul's grandmother with love and affection. It includes many of Duke Ellington's voicings, counterlines and brief interludes, some of which have rarely been heard, even in Ellington's heyday. It also includes a melody by Paul entitled "A Different Mood," heard underneath the second of Bob's two guitar improvisations.
"Rumblin'" is a soulful Sneider blues melody originally heard on his debut CD, Introducing Bob Sneider, and reworked here to include both major and minor sections. Bob's solo rubato introduction and ending, with Paul resurfacing in conclusion, is representative of how this and other compositions are frequently performed by the duo in concert.
Antonio Carlos Jobim's famous bossa "Desafinado" is played with Joao Gilberto's authentic vocal phrasing clearly in mind, as the duo modulates back and forth between two keys: E-flat and F.
Written for his dog, "Scooby" is a gorgeous Bob Sneider ballad and waltz that features an impressionistic piano solo immediately following a beautifully conceived and phrased guitar improvisation.
"A Place To Hide," also dedicated to Ivy, is an adventurous Latin-pop tune by Hofmann, whose arrangement incorporates various melodic passages from his "New Invention No. 2." Paul’s approach has been incorporated into a composition class he teaches at the Eastman School of Music.
The duo's version of "Bidin' My Time," an infectious George and Ira Gershwin classic from Girl Crazy (the hit show from 1930 which also featured such enduring favorites as "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You" and "But Not For Me"), incorporates bluesy solo passages and rhythmic stop time into a swinging and energetic performance.
"Benjamin," dedicated to Sneider's newborn son, is Hofmann's original melody based on the harmonic progression of the Thad Jones masterpiece "A Child Is Born" - a waltz that is included on Paul's MHR release of the same name.
"Mini Me" is a second dedication to Bob's son. The Latin-jazz piece constitutes a winning combination of arpeggiated melodies, fascinating harmonic ideas and relaxed rhythmic breaks.
Concluding the duo's debut program is Hofmann's "This Town," based on the harmonic structure of the standard "Out of Nowhere" and featuring two original melodies each dedicated to an important bebop composer-pianist: the first to Bud Powell; and, following Bob's guitar solo, the second to Lennie Tristano.
"…the central key to the achievement of Interconnection is their unusual ability to realize seamless, unified execution… And a word to you guitar players: Bob Sneider is someone definitely worth checking out. His short unaccompanied intro to “Azure Dreams” is everything beautiful Jazz guitar should encompass,—is a lesson unto itself…This is one of the best CDs sent to me by this magazine, and I suggest you do tell a friend."
— Cadence, January 2005
"Duo work is nothing new in this setting. In the past couple of years, Benny Green and Russell Malone have done a couple of fine records. Then there's Jim Hall and Bill Evans' Undercurrent and Intermodulation (which this record obviously tips its cap to, given its title). Interconnection must be placed with those records. It's an impressive, extremely listenable piece of work."
— Vintage Guitar, August 2004
"Listeners will find beautiful arrangements of standards like Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Desafinado," along with some excellent originals. Hofmann's 19-minute "Jazz Suite for Guitar and Piano" is a tour de force; Sneider's "Rumblin'" is irresistible."
— City Newspaper, August 2004
four stars"Guitarist Bob Sneider and pianist Paul Hofmann have a similar kind of chemistry to that demonstrated by Evans and Hall on their 1960s albums Undercurrent and Interplay, but their style is their own, and it comes out most clearly on their original compositions… Very nice."
— All Music Guide , May 2004
"…Interconnection, which teams up guitarist Bob Sneider and pianist Paul Hofmann in a programme that proves that good ears and a common purpose can make this rarity of a combination work without difficulty… Sneider has a dry, acoustic tone that is reminiscent of Jim Hall, but slightly less muted. Hofmann has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge that matches Sneider’s clear understanding of jazz history…Hofmann’s themes are as elliptical as some of Corea’s best…Throughout, the interplay demonstrated by Sneider and Hofmann gives credence to the album’s title. The two are so relaxed together, so in each other’s pocket that they make the most convoluted motifs sound effortless. A fine effort all-around, and one which highlights their formidable strength as composers as much as performers, Interconnection is a recording that ought to bring more well-deserved attention to both Sneider and Hofmann."
— All About Jazz, June 200