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Flute-based jazz a Valentine's gift

Holly Hofmann
Holly Hofmann
Holly Hofmann Collection

HOLLY HOFMANN, Salt Lake City Sheraton, Feb. 8.

A night of flute-based romantic jazz was an early Valentine's present to those who attended the Holly Hofmann concert at the Sheraton Monday night.

The award-winning flutist along with her band — husband/pianist Mike Wofford, drummer Jeff Hamilton, upright bassist Christoph Luty and a dozen string players from the Utah Symphony — zeroed in on the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn songbook.

Not only did the selections include slam-dunk tunes such as the show capper "Take the A Train," but also some lesser known works such as "Johnny Come Lately," which was given a shot of Latin spice during the performance.

The program included the full-band/orchestra on such works as the mesmerizing "Do Nothing 'til You Hear From Me" and the lazy-summer feel of "Daydream." It also included the piano, bass and drum trio rendition of "I'm Beginning to See The Light." And it was Hamilton's drum-brush solo that brought the house down.

One of the other highlights featured Hamilton again during a flute/drum duet of "Caravan," during which Hofmann and the drummer used their instruments to banter back and forth toward a rousing finish.

Then Hofmann and her main man Wofford came together with the wistful "Starcrossed Lovers," which was played to pin-drop silence. In fact, at the end of the song, the collective audience members exhaled an audible "ahh" and gave the two a hearty applause.

Wofford also served as the conductor, as he queued in the strings during the stamping "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" and the magical "Prelude to a Kiss."

The moody "Blood Count" and "Come Sunday" were sewn together in a medley in which the strings sustained the delicate transition.

Throughout the evening Luty worked with Hamilton to keep the foundations intact, but he was also able to let loose a few times for some bridge-to-nut solos that drew loud cheers during the interludes.

The strings, which included violins, violas and cellos, were the perfect addition to bring out the sublime back melodies of the works. The studio-quality mix and balance of the tones not only gave each piece it played some vitality, but also set romantic and exciting tones which the other musicians stretched and expanded.

Last week during an interview, Hofmann said there would be some improvisation, but there wouldn't be an overabundance of it because Ellington and Strayhorn composed perfect pieces with "perfect notes."

Hofmann and the boys proved those words Monday night. Sure, on occasion, they went "off script," but each time the melodies and rhythms were true to form and there wasn't a wasted or overindulgent solo to be heard.

All the audience heard and saw was a perfect concert.

e-mail: scott@desnews.com