Holly Hofmann, one of the jazz world’s premier flutists, explores a deeper-toned territory with Low Life: The Alto Flute Project. Primarily a conventional C flautist—with an impressive discography—Hofmann has broken out the lower tone of the alto flute in her concerts, and occasionally on record. Now it’s time for a full length CD featuring her expertise on the instrument.
The range of the alto flute is limited, requiring an artist to say more with less. Hofmann and her band—headed up by her husband, pianist Mike Wofford—are up to the challenge. The group reigns in the extended soloing and lays down a sound that is sweet and elegant, in a mode that explores the simple beauty, without fanfare, of some familiar (and some not so familiar) tunes. It’s a way of working that can get shoved aside in a music world that encourages challenging and pushing the boundaries.
The tone of the alto flute is rich and creamy, with a little blur around the edges. It is a less sharp sound that of the C flute, and is less penetrating. It’s this inviting tone that Hofmann uses to explore the Great American Songbook jewel, “The Very Thought of You,” making it sound as if the tune with written with the alto flute in mind. John Williams’ “Make Me Rainbows, from the 1967 Dick Van Dyke comedy, Fitzwilly, seems to swing down the street with a jaunty aplomb, a testament to the light touch, the superb understatement of the band.
Hofmann’s lone writing contribution to the set, “Lumeiere de la Vie,” is a five minute long gold nugget of a tune, a smooth and gorgeous masterpiece, and the CD’s closer, guitarist Pat Metheny’s “Farmer’s Trust” blossoms like spring flower, a sweet and unpretentious ballad, so delicate and lovely in the hands of this band and flutist Hofmann that it can make a grown man cry.
Track Listing: Jack of Hearts; Touch the Fog; Grow (for Dick Oatts); Lumiere de la Vie; Cedar Would; The Very Thought of You; Make Me Rainbow; Soul-Leo; Farmer’s Trust.
Personnel: Holy Hofmann: alto flute; Mike Wofford: piano; John Clayton: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums; Anthony Wilson: guitar.
By DAN MCCLENAGHAN, Published: May 10, 2014