By Chris Haines
This is an album of solo guitar pieces dedicated to Garrison Fewell. As well as the title Ghost Frets including the initials of the late guitarist there are among the varied set of pieces two of Fewell’s compositions as well as others by Monk, Dolphy, George Harrison and the Psychedelic Furs!
The album kicks-off with Fewell’s ‘Blues Update’, with Hofbauer providing a slightly more laid-back swinging interpretation of the piece, whilst the other Fewell piece ‘Ayleristic’ is punctuated with flourishes but contains the same freewheeling folksiness, which is emphasized even more as a solo guitar rendition. A piece that stands out for me is the Furs track ‘The Ghost in You’, not something I was expecting to hear but a pleasant surprise, especially as I was a fan of the group and this song in an earlier life. The re-harmonisation of the piece gives it a new vitality and allows it to sit much more comfortably in amongst the other pieces. Whilst the improvisation ‘Scratchedelic’ nods to the guitarists enjoyment of hip-hop and furthers the notion that modern pop music can still be used as a great resource for the jazz musician, Hofbauer also feels and sounds comfortable tackling such modern jazz behemoths as Eric Dolphy’s ‘Out to Lunch’ and Monk’s ‘Lets Cool One’ in a solo context. Another piece worthy of mention is the improvisation ‘Masafir’ with it’s picking behind the bridge providing an African mbira-like accompaniment to the hammered-on pentatonic melody, which again shows the diversity of the range of influences covered.
As an album of varied and catholic taste the homogeneity of the set is a real testament to Hofbauer’s musical style and vision with the continuity from piece to piece providing us with a unique and original glimpse into the guitarist’s personal take on pre-existing forms and material. The playing is excellent and virtuosic throughout providing us with a real master class in creative solo performance.
With this significant and interesting set of pieces Eric Hofbauer has done his old friend and mentor GF proud, a very worthy dedication it is too!