Sunday, December 19, 2010

CD Review – Calmness of Spirit, by David Hoffman

Composer and brass-man David Hoffman couldn’t have picked a better title for this CD. Combined with the beautiful, soothing cover photograph of mountains under a misty golden sky, it sets the mood for the sweet syrup for the soul contained on the album.

The horn player, who was part of Ray Charles’s band for over a decade, has cultivated a lush, lyrical, and dreamy soundscape to envelop oneself in when seeking solace from the stress of everyday life. The CD is also a perfect backdrop for relaxation as well as an engaging stimulus for focused meditation.

The music really epitomizes the concept of jazz/New Age fusion. The jazz part of the equation is apparent in Hoffman’s utilization of the trumpet, the flugelhorn, and the piano. He is obviously a proponent of more is less, as evidenced by his tasteful phrasing and careful selection of notes. He places bits and pieces of trumpet, flugelhorn, and piano here and there, in essence weaving a musical tapestry. For example, on “Julie’s Dream,” dedicated to his wife, Hoffman hangs piano chords like velvet drapes over a foundation of lush synthesizer textures.

This brings us to the New Age component of Hoffman’s jazz/New Age fusion. The album is layered with ethereal and otherworldly keyboard and synthesizer textures that start off quietly and increase in amplitude without becoming overwhelming. The tones are just right and almost function as a conduit to other dimensions. Nowhere is this more apparent than on “The Ambience of Motion,” which is a really cool and groovy, meditative and mystical space-out.

Throughout, Hoffman is ably supported by his friend, collaborator, and label-mate Paul Adams on guitar, bass, flute, and percussion. Although the compositions are all Hoffman’s and this album is unequivocally his own unique musical statement, he and Adams work very well together and exhibit great musical chemistry. They truly are a fantastic duo.

Calmness of Spirit is definitely recommended for massage, healing, meditation, and for anyone who likes cool jazz/New Age fusion. It’s classy, artful, elegant, and therapeutic.

--Raj Manoharan

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