Meet the Composers
“One of the most genuinely original guitarists of his generation,” declares All About Jazz Italia’s Mario Calvitti, “capable of renewing the language of jazz guitar with a fresh and iconoclastic approach, but without disrespect to tradition. This distinguishes him from the vast majority of his colleagues, and makes him and his work, worthy of careful consideration.” Hofbauer has been integral to Boston’s jazz scene for twenty-five years, as a musician, bandleader, organizer and educator.
Recognized in the 2019 and 2017 DownBeat Critics’ Poll for Rising Star – Guitar, he is widely known for his solo guitar work, featured in a collection of solo guitar recordings (American Vanity, American Fear, American Grace and Ghost Frets), and as the leader of the Eric Hofbauer Quintet (EHQ). The EHQ’s series of four “Prehistoric Jazz” recordings, featuring Hofbauer’s jazz arrangements of Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ellington, and Ives, placed consecutively on the Boston Globe’s Top 10 Jazz Albums of the Year lists, and received critical acclaim from leading press such as Downbeat, The Wire, and Tone Audio. Hofbauer has also performed and recorded alongside such notable collaborators as Han Bennink, Roy Campbell, Jr., John Tchicai, Garrison Fewell, Cecil McBee, George Garzone, Sean Jones, John Fedchock, Noah Preminger, Steve Swell and Matt Wilson.
Darryl Harper’s compositions include a score he co-wrote with Xavier Davis for the award-winning documentary film Herskovits: At the Heart of Blackness, a commission for the Tucson Symphony Chamber Players, and a critically acclaimed song cycle for his nonet. He has led his trio, The Onus, since the mid-90s, with Matthew Parrish (bass) and Harry “Butch” Reed (drums). His performance credits include dates with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Orrin Evans, Regina Carter, and he currently holds the clarinet chair in Jason Moran’s Harlem Hellfighters, a tribute project to World War I veteran and bandleader James Reese Europe. Harper is on the faculty at Amherst College.
Sam Spear is a woodwind instrumentalist, composer, and music educator based in Boston, MA. She has performed with a host of the city’s finest jazz musicians including Allan Chase, Ayn Inserto, and Bill Banfield, among others. Her four-part work for jazz orchestra Survivor’s Suite was awarded the 2019 Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Prize. Spear is passionate about music education and works with students across greater Boston from fourth grade beginning clarinetists to undergraduate music majors. She was recently appointed to the faculty of Berklee College of Music as an assistant professor of Contemporary Writing and Production. Spear holds a master’s degree in jazz saxophone performance from New England Conservatory and an undergraduate degree in saxophone performance and jazz composition from Berklee College of Music.
Spear has been a rising voice for gender equality in the jazz community. She presented her lecture Mary Lou Williams in the Age of #MeToo at the 2019 IAWM and FT&M15 joint conference. Her advocacy work has been featured in Downbeat Magazine’s February 2019 issue and in a news story on Boston’s local NPR station, WBUR. Spear co-founded Women in Jazz Collective, a student-run organization at Berklee College of Music with the mission of empowering female and non-binary jazz musicians.
Randy Pingrey is a trombonist and composer. He started working professionally in the exciting indie rock scene of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and recorded several times with the Grammy-award-winning band Bon Iver, including on the classic album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. Randy also plays with his own band The Olson Pingrey Quartet, the Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra, Evan Ziporyn’s Critical Band, and many other exciting projects on the East Coast. He can be heard on albums for the Tzadik, Saddle Creek, and Jagjaguwar labels. As a composer he has written for his own groups, the Composer’s Saxophone Quartet, and the Monkfish Jazz Orchestra. He is a faculty member at Berklee College of Music.
Joel LaRue Smith
Joel has toured extensively, performing jazz, classical, gospel and Afro Cuban repertoire, throughout the U.S., Europe, Africa, Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean. He has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Whitney Museum; The White House; Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Boston; The Royal Albert Hall, London; The Hellenic Music Festival in Athens; 2013 and 2011 Costa Rica International Jazz Festival, 2011 Guatemala International Music Festival; and various noted jazz clubs like the Blue Note, The Village Gate, the Jazz Dock in Prague, and The Blue Frog in Mumbai. He has performed with the New York Philharmonic, The Toledo Symphony, The French National Orchestra, Mario Bauza, Kenny Burrell, Tito Puente, Junior Cook and Wayne Andre. His debut CD, “September’s Child”, featuring seven original Afro-Cuban Jazz compositions, was released in 2009, receiving rave international reviews. His March 2017 CD, “The Motorman’s Son” has been described in Downbeat magazine as “a vibrant, powerful and hard-grooving release”.
In February 2022, Joel has been selected as the inaugural MacJannet Artist-in-Residence at the Tufts European Center in Talloires, France. He is the recipient of the 2019 Boston Foundation LAB Grant, the Massachusetts Cultural Council 2017 Artist Fellowship Program Finalist Award in Music Composition, six Meet the Composer grants, a grand prizewinner for the grant in musical composition from the Queens Council for the Arts, and has won ASCAP’s distinguished George and Ira Gershwin Award.
He was the featured pianist in the 2011 Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert in Boston. In 2013, Joel was the Cultural Envoy to Central America for the U.S. Embassy and Department of State. In March 2017 he released a new Afro Cuban Jazz compact disc, “The Motorman’s Son”.
In May 2016, Joel lectured at the International Society for Improvised Music Conference in Toronto, Canada and performed at the Jeonju International Sori Festival in September 2016. Mr. Smith is presently a contributing writer to JazzEd magazine with published theoretical and historical articles on the music of Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane and Bobby Hutcherson.
The music of American saxophonist, composer, and scholar Jason Robinson (“rugged and scintillating,” New York Times) thrives in the fertile overlaps between improvisation and composition, acoustic music and electronics, tradition and experimentalism. Robinson’s primary group is his Janus Ensemble, which ranges in size from a quartet with pianist Joshua White, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Ches Smith, to a quintet with reedist Marty Ehrlich, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer George Schuller, to the full nine-piece version of the group with the addition of reedist JD Parran, trombonist and tubist Bill Lowe, tubist Marcus Rojas, and both Ches Smith and George Schuller. Appearing on more than 50 albums, including 18 albums as a leader or co-leader, Robinson’s latest releases include Two Hours Early, Ten Minutes Late: Duo Music of Ken Aldcroft, with Eric Hofbauer (Accretions, 2020), The Urgency of Now with Bruno Råberg and Bob Weiner (Creative Nation Music, 2020), and Harmonic Constituent with Joshua White, Drew Gress, and Ches Smith (Playscape, 2020). Robinson has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Europe with his own groups and with Peter Kowald, George Lewis, Anthony Davis, Amiri Baraka, Toots and the Maytals, Groundation, Louie Bellson, Jack Sheldon, Bertram Turetzky, John Russell, Gerry Hemingway, Mel Graves, Mel Martin, Marco Eneidi, Raphe Malik, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, among others. As a scholar, Robinson’s work investigates the relationship between improvised and popular musics, experimentalism, and cultural identity and is published in several edited volumes and academic journals, including Ethnomusicology, Jazz Perspectives, and Critical Studies in Improvisation/ Études critiques en improvisation. Robinson is an Associate Professor of Music at Amherst College and received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego.
Matan Rubinstein is a composer, pianist, electronic musician and sound designer, active in a variety of contexts and modalities: from concert works for orchestra and chamber groups, to Jazz and other forms of improvised music, to Acousmatic music from speakers. Many of his works are a result of collaborative efforts, making music for dance, theater, film, television, art installation and interactive media.
He has shared stages, toured and recorded with people from a wide array of practice and style – from contemporary classical concerts to Rhythm And Blues masters such as David “Fathead” Newman and Clyde Stubblefield; from improvising with members of Chicago’s AACM and New York’s Downtown scene. His own groups, the Marlboro Slipstream and Modular Music Ensemble, present music that is intermodal and concerned with various ways of making music that sounds radically different every time it’s played.
Originally from Jerusalem Israel, Matan has lived and worked in Brooklyn, NY and Madison, WI, where he received a doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin in music composition. He now lives with his wife and three daughters in the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts, and is Associate Professor of Music and Sound Studies at Emerson College in Boston.
Jeremy Cohen is a composer, percussionist and entrepreneur. He is a Remo-sponsored artist and founder of ThisWorldMusic, which for over 10 years specialized in award-winning, music-and-dance study abroad programs in West Africa and Cuba. His music has been performed at Yoshi’s (Oakland, CA), New England Conservatory and WPI, and he has presented workshops at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Sarah Lawrence College.
A passionate educator, Mr. Cohen worked for many years with incarcerated youth through the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services. He sat on the Young Audiences of Massachusetts Board of Directors, and consulted for The School District of Philadelphia. Currently he oversees the jazz ensembles at Worcester State University.
He holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley and the New England Conservatory, and studied traditional music and dance in Ghana and Cuba.