Press and Reviews

Amos Hoffman's story is one of departures and returns. This guitarist-oudist cut his teeth in his native Israel, made his way to Amsterdam, and finally ended up in New York in the '90s as part of what could be considered the first wave of Israeli jazz talent to really make an impact on the Big Apple. And then he left. Hoffman returned to Israel, continuing to play, record on occasion, and mentor up-and-comers who've come stateside, or, no doubt, will. But that's not where this story ends: after spending the past fourteen years in Israel, Hoffman came back to the city that never sleeps in February of 2015 and recorded this appealing straight-ahead statement. Back To The City finds Hoffman rekindling old musical relationships, covering classics all by his lonesome, and delivering a good number of originals that speak in different tongues. There's upbeat, blues-infused music that's Monk-ish in the way it swings, speaks, and sings ("Back To The City"); sounds of southern life—breezy, unhurried, semi-countrified, and wholly hospitable in nature ("Alone In South Carolina"); and Brazilian-based music capped off with a brief but memorable guitar cadenza ("After Lazy Noon"). In addition, there's also some driving bop ("Mr. X."), mellow-ish swing with room for stretching ("Easy Going"), and groove music that speaks in Adderley-esque fashion ("Little Pigs"). And then there are the aforementioned solo takes on standards ("I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," "Pannonica," "Darn That Dream," "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"), performances that ably demonstrate how an artist can be an in-the-tradition player and an individualist all at once. It's clear that there's genuine camaraderie here, as everybody's supporting one another, playing for the song, and having a blast all the while. Hoffman and drummer Vince Ector really connect when trading solos ("Back To The City") and leading the charge ("Mr. X"), trumpeter Duane Eubanks and saxophonist Asaf Yuria feed off of each other and thrive in both down-home environs and up-tempo locales, guest Itai Kriss' flute sounds right at home when it appears ("Little Pigs"), and bassist Omer Avital ties everyone and everything together with his tasty and tasteful bass work. This is a solid group, delivering what can only be described as a straight-down-the-middle winner.” - Dan Bilawsky

All About Jazz

Hoffman, 46, plays modern jazz with a heady Middle Eastern accent. After graduating from the High School of the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, his search for new musical experiences led him first to Amsterdam and then to New York City, where he performed with the likes of pianist Jason Lindler, bassist Avishai Cohen and vocalist Claudia Acuna. Hoffman has recorded five solo albums, and in 2013 was awarded one of Israel’s most prestigious prizes: The Landau Prize for Arts and Sciences for outstanding achievement in jazz. Welcome to New York: Hoffman moved here when he was either 21 or 22, “sometime in the early ’90s … maybe ’92? That whole period is a little foggy,” he apologizes, “it was right after a year in Amsterdam.” New York of the ’90s was easy enough to get by in: “I was renting a two-bedroom on the Upper East Side with a roommate and could cover the rent with four $50 gigs a month,” he recalls. The Scene Back Then: Arriving at the same time as Israeli bassists Omer Avital and Avishai Cohen, Hoffman describes a jazz scene that was wide open and largely un-institutionalized. While there was no Israeli presence to speak of yet — “If you said you were Israel, that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone” — one could play with some big names at various jam sessions. (Smalls, in the West Village, which became a home base for some Israeli players, opened several years later). Soon after Hoffman arrived, he took up playing in the subway with singer Evelyn Blakey, daughter of famed jazz drummer Art Blakey. Breakthrough Moment: Hoffman had played the oud since childhood, but considered it more of a private hobby than a calling. One night, though, an American peer came to visit and convinced Hoffman to bring the oud out with him. “Suddenly I saw people go crazy for this instrument, how it fit in. ... It was a sound that didn’t exist [in jazz circles] before, you know?” Later that year, bassist Avishai Cohen invited Hoffman to play oud and guitar on his debut CD; Omer Avital soon followed suit with his own brand of jazz/Middle Eastern fusion. Israeli Sound in Jazz: No such thing, says Hoffman — not really. “If you think about the original Israeli music, we’re thinking about a mixed group of composers that drew from many traditions, like classical, European and Eastern European music.” The Israeli sound in jazz, he suggests, “is still new and still coming into its own.” Read more at” - Orly Santo

Jewish Times

Here’s a tasty guitarist you’re going to love. Amos Hoffman teams up with Omer Avital/b, Vince Ector/dr, Duane Eubanks/tp, Asaf Yuria/ts and Itai Kriss/fl for a mix of swinging small group pieces and a handful of solo acts. Of the former, the horns form a rich pilaf of sound on the gentle “Easy Going” while creating some clever framework on “After Lazy Moon.” The team boogies out the blues with Kriss’ flute on “Little  Pigs” while Eubanks’ horn is crisp and bright on the title track. Hoffman himself knows how to make the strings moan, and he preaches it on the gospel grooved “Alone in South Carolina” while he does a stringed version Thelonious Monk’s  piano on a clever “Pannonica” and doo wops the frets on “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”  His tone is easy on the ears, and he’s got an inherent sense of swing. Gotta love it!” - George W. Harris

Jazz Weekly

On previous albums, Hoffman played with both an electric guitar and oud, and zigzagged back and forth between the spirit of American jazz and music imbibed from these parts. Hoffman spent a few years in New York before returning to Israel for over a decade, and recently returned to America. His new album is a clear product of this biographical-geographical step. “Back to the City” is an album of pure traditional jazz, mostly the hard bop, bluesy sound of the 1950s and ’60s.” - Ben Shalev


Amos Hoffman may well be today’s Rosetta Stone of jazz. Equally adept in Middle Eastern harmonies as he is in 52nd Street swing, the Israeli-born guitarist cut his teeth in his native Jerusalem before eventually moving to Amsterdam, where he blended right into that city’s titillating jazz atmosphere. Later, after relocating to New York, he became a frequent collaborator of the young Latin musicians who came to dominate the city’s downtown scene. As a sideman, Hoffman has played with artists as diverse as pianist/sound designer Jason Lindner and Chilean singer Claudia Acuña. He’s also a masterful oud player, having made some fine recordings on the instrument throughout his career. But onBack To The City, his fifth album as a leader, Hoffman plays it straight, offering six new originals and four standards that harken back to the Golden Age of jazz guitar. Hoffman is joined on this outing by fellow countrymen Omer Avital on bass, Asaf Yuria on saxophone and Itai Kriss on flutes, as well as a pair of Philadelphia natives in Vince Ector on drums and Duane Eubanks on trumpet. The sextet navigates through the album’s ever-evolving styles, channeling Art Blakey and Horace Silver on the grooving opener, “Easy Going,” and confessing the blues on the gospel-inflected “Alone In South Carolina,” on which Avital plucks a divine bass solo. Interspersed throughout the sextet tracks are recordings of Hoffman playing solo; these passages offer a clear glimpse into the guitarist’s wide-ranging style. He wears his influences well. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” for example, features warbly notes in the upper register that emulate the sound of the oud. “Darn That Dream” recalls Amsterdam’s wonderful jazz manouche scene. It’s no coincidence that Hoffman has become a mentor to so many of today’s Israeli musicians. He has something to offer everyone.” - Brian Zimmerman

Downbeat Magazine

The award winning jazzbo guitar ace comes back to the big apple after a 14 year hejira and doesn't take it back to the downtown he left behind---he takes it old school. Feeling like a modern take on something Wes Montgomery would be doing today, Hoffman hits that blue note with a lot of verve. A solid bet for the mainstream jazz fan, there's just no way to go wrong with this winning, pleasing set that shows why his peers think he's paying at the top of his game. Killer stuff.” - Chris Spector

Midwest Record

Aunque este Carving es ya su cuarto disco como líder, Amos Hoffman saltó a la primera plana del jazz internacional gracias a sus colaboraciones con Avishai Cohen. En este caso presenta un proyecto trufado de momentos brillantes que, sin embargo, no consiguen dotar a la obra de cohesión. La elección (¿demasiado eclecticismo, quizás?) y el orden (abruptos cambios de humor) de los temas empañan un buen trabajo de composición y unas interpretaciones de nivel.“Monique” abre a ritmo de vals. El acompañamiento relajado de guitarra y el timbre de la flauta le dan cierto aire de música de guateque, si bien varios obligados rítmicos impiden que caiga en lo prosaico. “Brown Sugar” es el hit del disco, integrando orgánicamente una melodía con aromas de Oriente Medio con ideas más jazzísticas. La guitarra da paso al laúd árabe (el oud) y la flauta de Ilan Salem añade matices étnicos. Gilad Abro y Amir Bresler, firmes durante toda la grabación, mantienen un pulso contagioso. Muy ingenioso el solo de Hoffman, aprovechando todo tipo de recursos estilísticos. Tras la discreta balada “A Minute To Smell The Flower”, “Rea” añade un toque latino a la ambigüedad jazz-Oriente Medio, con destacada presencia de la percusión de Ilan Katchka y el líder nuevamente a la guitarra, y el riff de “Self Portrait” invita a bailar. Es a partir de entonces cuando el concepto se desmembra, queriendo abarcar demasiado y dando cabida a unas colaboraciones que, fulgurosas por sí solas, no se integran en el producto. El solo de bajo eléctrico de Avishai Cohen en “Ras” es memorable, pero rompe el discurso que tan bien se había trenzado en la primera parte del CD, roto por completo en “All Alone”, a guitarra sola. En “Uncle Charlie” y la bellísima “The Well” (a dúo con la flauta) el componente jazzístico brilla por su ausencia, contrastando con la movida “Abe Baby”, que hubiera encajado mejor junto a los primeros temas. Cierra el disco “Away”, un nuevo dúo, en este caso junto al pianista Shai Maestro.Interpretaciones de nivel organizadas en un todo deslavazado, actuaciones sobresalientes desmerecidas por el contexto, colaboraciones excepcionales desligadas del discurso global. Una pena, podía haber sido un gran disco; muy recomendable, no obstante. ” - Auturo Mora Rioja

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Tous ceux qui ont eu la chance d'assister récemment à un concert du quintet d'Avishai Cohen ont pu découvrir à ses côtés un brillant guitariste et joueur de oud, Amos Hoffman. Avec "Carving", son nouvel album produit sur le label du contrebassiste Avishai Cohen Razdaz Recordz, Amos Hoffman poursuit sa quête d'une musique ancrée dans le jazz et l'Orient, fusionnant avec swing et intelligence ces deux univers. Composé pour moitié de titres joués à la guitare, les autres étant interprétés au oud, "Carving" recèle de superbes compositions, parmi lesquelles le tubesque et funky "Brown Sugar", qui devrait, on l'espère, lui offrir le même succès en France que celui que connaît son ami bassiste, présent sur un titre du disque. Aux côtés du guitariste, quatre musiciens en parfaite osmose, Ilan Salem (flûte) Ilan Katchka (percussions) Gilad Abro (basse) et Amir Bresler (batterie), avec la participation d'Itamar Doari (darbouka) et du pianiste Shai Maestro. Amos Hoffman possède un son et un style unique, marque de tous les grands jazzmen, et livre avec ce disque une musique souvent festive, parfois mélancolique, toujours inspirée. La superbe pochette de l'album, hommage à Moshe Hoffman, père du musicien et célèbre peintre et sculpteur, ajoute encore à la beauté de "Carving".” - Alain Granat


באלבום הרביעי, Carving (בלייבל RazDaz , 2010), חוזר הופמן סוף סוף להקליט עם הגיטרה ומחלק את הקטעים בין הגיטרה והעוד, בין הג'אז והערבי והשילוב הכל כך יפה שהצליח למצוא ביניהם. הלחנים של הופמן מורכבים, מפתיעים ופתלתלים וניכר שהושקעה בהם מחשבה רבה. הם מגוונים מאד אך שומרים על רמה אחידה גבוהה ומשתבחים באזני עם כל האזנה נוספת. כל כך כיף לשמוע אותו חוזר לפרוט בלדות ובלוזים על הגיטרה כמו שרק הוא יודע וגם נותן בראש (בגיטרה ובעוד) בקטעים הקצביים יותר. בהאלבום נשמע מאד זורם מבחינת תחושת הנגינה וניכר שהמוסיקאים נהנו לנגן אותו. אילן סאלם מנגן כאן נהדר וכמיטב המוסרת הערבית סאלם והופמן מנגנים כמה אוניסונים (אוניסון = נגינת אותה המלודיה בדיוק וביחד בידי כמה כלים) וכשדרכיהם נפרדות בסופם וכל אחד לוקח את הכיוון שלו אתה פשוט עף... חלק גדול מכך יש לזקוף לזכות העובדה שההרכב הינו הרכב שעובד ביחד תקופה ארוכה והמוסיקה שהקליטו אינה חדשה להם. עוד משהו שהוא בבחינת בונוס עבורי: הסאונד של האלבום הזה נפלא. המסע הזה מהג'אז למוסיקה הערבית ובחזרה לג'אז לקח אפוא להופמן שלושה אלבומים וכמעט עשור, אבל המטען המוסיקלי והתרבותי שהביא עמו מהמסע לא יסולא בפז. באלבום מנגנים: עמוס הופמן, אילן סאלם בחליל, גלעד אברו בבאס, אילן קצ'קה בכלי הקשה, אמיר ברסלר בתופים ובנוסף משתתפים (בהופעות אורח מצויינות) גם אבישי כהן, שי מאסטרו ואיתמר דוארי. בהופעות מנגן הופמן בעו­ּד מוגבר (חשמלי) שבנה בעצמו. כששאלתי מה היה עושה אלמלא היה מוסיקאי – תשובתו היתה נחרצת: נגר. ההתעסקות בעץ היא אהבה גדולה שלו וגם, כך מסתבר, כשרון. זה לא מפתיע אם לוקחים בחשבון את הייחוס המשפחתי שלו כבנו של משה הופמן, הפסל והצייר הירושלמי. הופמן נותן לאביו את הקרדיט על שפיתח בו את היצירתיות והאהבה למוסיקה. "השעות הארוכות בהן התבוננתי בו יוצר לימדו אותי ליצור בסבלנות" הוא אומר ובתמונת העטיפה של האלבום אף מופיעה עבודת תגליף של אביו. (תמונות התגליפים המופיעים בפוסט זה אף הם מיצירותיו של משה הופמן)” - Yair Speigel

The Sideman

Amos Hoffman - Carvingהדיסק החדש של עמוס הופמן הוא בהחלט חוויה לאוזניים. עמוס מפליא לנגן על גיטרה ועוד והאלבום פשוט חולף לו במהירותבדיסק קיים ניחוך חזק של מוזיקה אטנית ורוח מדבר בחלק מהקטעים, אבל ניתן גם למצוא יצירות ג'אזיות, קטעים עם גוון ברזילאי, ובלאדותאבישי כהן הפיק וניגן באס בקטע אחדמומלץ בחום”


On his latest album, Back in the City, Israeli guitarist Amos Hoffman plays blues-based, bebopping jazz with great, swinging proficiency. Since he did live in New York through the 1990s, and he now calls South Carolina home, perhaps the authenticity of his music owes something to geography. But the Jerusalem-born-and-raised musician, 46, also plays oud, the Middle Eastern lute, and two of his previous records have been rich, expressive albums of original music that combines a jazz sensibility with the sounds of his Israeli roots.    This multi-directional musician plays concerts this week in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, teaming up with three young Toronto musicians who sought Hoffman out for a new collaboration. Hoffman says the custom-made repertoire will feature him playing “50 per cent oud and 50 per cent guitar” on “intriguing and thought-provoking” material. Below, Hoffman discusses his globetrotting exploits and dual musical loves. How did music enter your life when you were growing up? My parents didn’t play instruments, but my grandmother and father were big music lovers, and listened to a lot of different types of music — from Bach to Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis. My neighbourhood was mostly Mizrahim — Jews that had emigrated from the Arab countries, especially Morocco and Iraq — so when I visited them at their houses I would hear (oud virtuoso) Farid al-Atrash and (Egyptian singer) Umm Kulthum. When did you start playing guitar and oud? I started taking guitar lessons when I was about six. I had an oud, but didn’t take formal lessons until I was in New York.   When did the jazz bug bite you? What appealed to you about the music? I only ever wanted to play jazz. I think what appealed to me was the freedom that it gives you to put your own stamp on a particular piece of music. You can take the same piece of music, give it to five musicians and get five interpretations that are wildly different, but still clearly from the same thing.  Did you study jazz in school or in university? I went to a musical high school, but I pretty much never went to a real music school. Instead, I went to New York when I was in my early 20s. I  just went to jam sessions and practiced a lot.   When it comes to jazz, who are your heroes? My biggest heroes are not guitarists. I’m a huge fan of (pianist) Thelonious Monk. He’s like my favourite musician. Of course, I listened to the great (guitarists) Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery. I studied the full records of Wes, the entire solos. But later on, I became more influenced by Thelonious Monk, and also (trumpeter) Clifford Brown.  Was it hard to take the decision to become a professional musician? My parents were very free thinkers, so I was never pressured to decide on a career. My father was a sculptor, so he was always encouraging of my playing. I was lucky that I was never told that I needed to be “practical,” so I never thought about being anything else. What prompted you to leave Israel? Where have you lived since you moved? In the late ’80s there really wasn’t much of a jazz scene in Israel. It was a very small community and you were basically playing with the same guys all the time. If you wanted to learn and grow, you basically had to leave the country.  Most of my friends — like the bassists Avishai Cohen and Omer Avital — went to New York, but I couldn’t get a visa. So I spent a year in Amsterdam with a girlfriend until I could work something out. I moved to New York in the early 1990s, until 2000, and then I lived in Israel from 2000 to 2014. My wife is American and we have three children and they’d never really been to the U.S. We wanted them to experience some time here, so we came to live in 2014 in South Carolina, where my wife is from. It’s a nice landing spot — very nice with good schools and such, but not so happening musically. How did you get more serious about playing the oud? That’s a funny story. I had an oud since I was a kid, but I was just playing around, playing stuff on the radio, playing stuff from my ear. In New York, I was playing with a sax player, Jay Collins. I always had the oud in the house, and Jay saw it and said, “What is this?” I started playing it and he was like, “Man, you’ve got to play it!” He was the first one who planted the idea in my brain. Then, of course, everybody really liked it because it’s got such a different sound. Avishai Cohen, he asked me to bring it in for his first album, Adama. I started putting it into my thing.  There’s not too many people who can do both guitar and oud on a very high level in a traditional way, both of them. A lot of people can be a jazz guitar player who can play a little bit of oud. I can sit down with an Arabic band, I know the repertoire — classical Egyptian music, classical Turkish music. I really took it seriously.  What are the challenges and rewards of pursuing music that fuses jazz and the sounds of the Middle East? Sometimes it’s difficult when I’m collaborating with someone who isn’t familiar with the oud. It’s a very unique instrument, and it’s not always possible to write for it in the same way as a Western instrument, because it has a limited range.    The best reward is when people find a groove they weren’t expecting, when they’ve heard something new. How did this collaboration with the Toronto musicians came about, and what can listeners look forward to? Noam Lemish contacted me. He was familiar with my work and knew that I was in North America.  We met and came up with some ideas and we began to write original music. I’m going to play 50 per cent oud and 50 per cent guitar. Listeners can look forward to maybe hearing an instrument that they aren’t familiar with — some intriguing and thought-provoking stuff.” - Peter Hum

Ottawa Citizen