Eric Hofbauer: Pocket Chops

source: myspace.com/hofbauer and the infrared bandFighting jetlag on my recent run through Boston, I tossed my sleep cycle into the shredder, hopping the “T” one night to take in a jazz show at the “Y” on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge.

Guitarist Eric Hofbauer is a young guy with a casual and charismatic stage presence, and his Infrared Band was worth staying up for. Its compositions are jazz at heart, with the occasional free-form diversion and some adventurous soloing. Very nice outside-in stuff, fronted by Hofbauer’s jazz guitar but drafted with ample soloing space for everyone.

“The Chump Killer” is a standout of their playbook. You can’t miss it. Hofbauer explaned that the Chump Killer is a hero who searches the earth to go defeat evildoers and generally nasty people (“chumps”), and not necessarily in violent ways. After a cool, overlapping call-and-response theme between sax and guitar, the music took an extended break for saxophonist Kelly Roberge to play the roles of the Chump Killer and the Chump, using electronically enhanced, cartoony voices. His dialogue had the Chump Killer taunting the Chump but then winding up in some sort of trap. Pretty funny stuff (inspired by a kung fu movie, it turns out). The rest of the mini-suite followed, and given its chipper nature, you have to assume things turned out OK.

Eric Hofbauer (right) & the Infrared BandThere were also some tunes at once catchy and tricky, like “Pocket Chops.” Hofbauer explained how the term arose in conversation, when someone asked him — I can’t recall the story exactly, but I think he was telling someone about the contrast of playing in Boston versus somewhere else. “Oh, man, you gotta have pocket chops,” he said at the time. Of course, Hofbauer had no idea what that meant, but he rode with it and, years later, wrote it up as a piece.

In the rental car the next day, I took a quick sampling of the CDs I’d bought at the show: The Infrared Band’s Myth Understanding and Hofbauer’s solo acoustic American Vanity. Not the best listening environment, but it was the one available to me, and I thought a car listen would be an interesting blogging experiment.

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