There With A Smile

Total Time – 69:35

    (clarinet, piano, drums) 3:46
    (flute, piano, drums) 5:11

    (alto saxophone, piano, drums) 5:52
  4. J.T.H. for Dad
    (solo piano) 3:21
  5. IMPRESSION (OF SUSAN) for Susan
    (soprano saxophone, piano) 3:43
  6. CHOPINESQUE for Grandma H.
    (flute, piano, drums) 4:34
  7. THE GREATEST CAT for Pookie
    (bass clarinet, piano, drums) 5:28
  8. RYAN'S BOP for Ryan
    (alto saxophone, piano, drums) 4:10
  9. LYNN MARIE for Lynn
    (flute, piano, drums) 4:03
    (solo piano) 2:44
  11. GRAPES for Grandma B.
    (clarinet, piano, drums) 4:43
  12. HAVIV
    (flute, piano, drums) 3:29
    (alto saxophone, piano, drums) 4:35
  14. DEVOTION for Gram
    (clarinet, piano, drums) 5:39
  15. IN OUR HEARTS for Gramp
    (flute, piano) 5:52
    (clarinet, piano, drums) 2:01
  • Compositions by Paul Hofmann (PBH Music BMI)
  • Produced by Paul Hofmann
  • Engineered by Ron Ubel
  • Recorded digitally, January 24-25, 1995 at Soundtrek Studio I, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Digital editing by John Blank
  • Art direction and design by Keith Kavanaugh

This compact disc is dedicated to my grandfather, James R. Barrett (1910-1995). Along with Gram, he introduced me to jazz music more than twenty years ago. A good amateur pianist himself, he especially enjoyed the music of Count Basie and Erroll Garner. I definitely caught ‘the jazz bug’ from listening to an old LP of his: “Erroll Garner Plays for Dancing.” Aside from this influence, Gramp set many good examples for me by his life. He is sorely missed.

There With A Smile

“If you love music, then it follows you love to listen to it, which makes the ear the most essential instrument, the most essential musical instrument in the world.”


This album is another fulfillment of a dream!

I’ve written music for many people over the years, particularly for friends and relatives. But until now, many of these songs have remained unrecorded. So I’m excited to now be able to present these ‘family pieces’ in one collection.

Although this music was written intermittently over the last few years (Lynn Marie, the oldest, dates to the late-’80s), this two-day recording session transpired in a whirlwind! The session took place in the midst of my last week living in Kansas City, as I was packing. Actually, recording these songs was a welcome diversion from my preparing for the thousand-mile move back to New York.

For this project, I’ve substituted the less conventional woodwinds - piano - drums arrangement in place of the traditional piano trio (piano - bass - drums). Since I’ve always enjoyed playing the occasional ‘walking bass line’ on the piano, I was excited to use this technique when recording these songs.

And now, some notes about our notes...

There With A Smile is a playful little swing tune. Its loping, somewhat ‘angular’ quality is definitely influenced by the style of Thelonious Sphere Monk.

Proof Positive is Chick Corea-like in its lively rhythms. Dig Charles Perkins and his exciting flute improvisation! Of all the pieces, I remember this number being particularly fun to play.

When You’re Not Around is a contemporary Rhythm and Blues melody, somewhat reminiscent of the soulful ballads on David Sanborn’s records. Sanborn is a marvelous saxophonist, but Charles’ alto playing here – by design – is more of the elegant manner of Johnny Hodges.

How to characterize J.T.H.? How about ... Bach meets jazz. Bach (of course) and Bud Powell are the two big influences on the piece’s character. Imagine a piano student playing a Baroque keyboard invention in a lesson ... when the teacher leaves the room for a moment, the student begins ad-libbing over the same harmonies – being careful, every twelve measures, to return to the written melodies. Another fun one!

Impression (of Susan) is a rubato ‘mood piece,’ with a nod to Debussy and Ravel (and a little Gershwin for good measure). Bravo to Charles for his sensitive playing throughout.

Chopinesque. This is an example of what some might call ‘chamber jazz’: the harmonies and melodies are borrowed from Romantic chamber music, while Tommy Ruskin’s wonderful rhythms underscore a jazz waltz feeling.

The Greatest Cat is an easy-going shuffle tune. It suggests an elderly, somewhat feeble (but still lively in spirit) tabby. Charles’s bass clarinet captures this ‘mature’ conception of my beloved Pookie to perfection.

saxIn contrast, Ryan’s Bop implies all the energy an infant can muster! This brings to mind my nephew running around the house – in love with life and with discovery.

Lynn Marie started life as – of all things – a power rock ballad. For this session, I’ve transformed it into a softer pop tune. Dig Tommy’s Poinciana beat (via the great drummer Vernell Fournier, formerly of Ahmad Jamal’s famous trio) during the closing section.

Back Home Blues is a brief piano solo, and is perhaps a more ‘restful’ version of the blues than is commonly heard.

The next swing tune commemorates my grandmother’s acres ... and acres ... of Grapes – especially during the ending fade. A point of pride for Grandma (and for all of us): her harvested Portland, N.Y. grapes have often been rated among Chautauqua County’s best!

The Hebrew word Haviv (pronounced “ha-VIV”) means lovable ... pleasant ... amiable ... dear. Charles’s playing of this waltz is especially beautiful.

hihatThe next piece recalls many happy memories of Relaxin’ On Marco. This shuffle tune suggests fun in the sun down on Marco Island, Florida.

Devotion is a relaxed ballad, reminiscent of the classic jazz tunes my grandparents were privileged to dance to some sixty years ago. Ellington is the prime inspiration here.

The affectionate In Our Hearts was written for my grandfather. I’m thankful that I was able to play this number for him on several occasions, the last instance some three weeks prior to his passing early last year.

There With A Smile (reprise). I’ve concluded with an alternate take of the opening number as matching bookends might frame both ends of a photo shelf. To me, hearing this closing version (with fades taking us in and out of the song) suggests looking both back and forward in time ... contemplating the generations of life.

On a less profound note... please do enjoy our rendition of these songs!

Paul Hofmann