The Flood and the Rainbow

Total Time — 75:32


  1. i. The Ark 13:42
  2. ii. The Flood 5:04
  3. iii. The Dove 4:36
  4. iv. Reflections 2:27
  5. v. The Aftermath 5:06
  6. vi. The Rainbow 10:22
  7. Bonus Tracks:

  8. Flamenco Sketches** 26:23
  9. On the Water 7:34

**with Mike Metheny – flugelhorn

  • All compositions by Paul Hofmann – PBH Music BMI except Flamenco Sketches by Miles Davis and published by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. BMI
  • Produced by Paul Hofmann
  • Recorded August 23, 2006 (“The Flood…) and August 22-23, 2001 (the bonus tracks) at Soundtrek Studio I, Kansas City, MO
  • Engineered by Ron Ubel
  • Digital editing by Jeff Schiller
  • Art direction and design by Keith Kavanaugh

The Flood
and the Rainbow

“The true harvest of my life is somewhat intangible and indescribable – a little star-dust caught, a segment of rainbow which I have clutched.”


Paul Hofmann is both a master musician and pianist. He has a rare gift for improvisation, including the ability to reconstitute the basic content of whatever music he is playing. Paul is not just an authority of jazz or of classical, but is a master of the language of music itself.

It is always a treat listening to Paul play piano. Paul develops his musical ideas clearly and concisely, utilizing his deep understanding of melody, harmony and rhythm. These combine with his compositional skill, resulting in original musical storytelling. Paul’s performing, composing and improvising is integrated into one activity, and is as natural as breathing is for him.

I have known Paul for many years and have had the good fortune to study with him. It is fascinating to hear Paul converse in the language of music. His knowledge, his years of study and practice, and his teaching and performing inform each improvisation on this album. You are in for a real treat.

I first heard these pieces at Paul’s home studio shortly after he had recorded them, and I was immediately taken with them. At times their style reminds me of the impressionist composers; they also slip into the language of contemporary jazz. At other times the pieces seem inspired by modern composers such as Bartok. While they have fitting titles, one can easily allow this music to take you to other imaginary places than floods and rainbows.

The album also includes a beautiful rendition of Flamenco Sketches, popularized by Miles Davis and here featuring guest soloist Mike Metheny on flugelhorn. Mike is a wonderful artist who weaves gorgeous lines over Paul’s lush harmonic carpet. The final solo piano piece, On the Water, sums things up with Debussy-like fantasies.

Improvisation is too much fun to be left solely to the realm of jazz musicians! When I first heard this music, I thought: This is what non-jazz improvisation can sound like. As a music educator and a director of a large community music school, I find Paul’s improvisations very exciting. Perhaps one day, more classical students will improvise? This album points the way.

Howard Potter
Associate Dean for Continuing and Community Education
Eastman School of Music

On August 23, 2006, I went back to my favorite recording studio – Kansas City’s Soundtrek – and improvised a solo piano fantasia, Columbia Encyclopedia defining ‘fantasia’ as a “musical composition not restricted to a formal design, but constructed freely in the manner of an improvisation.”

There was no written music of any kind, and nothing was planned beforehand except my playing music which generally related to the flood story from the Bible (Genesis chapters 6-9).

As with earlier MHR projects of mine, much of this material ended up sounding more ‘contemporary classical’ than jazz, though the fact that it was all improvised is something classical performers rarely wish to do nowadays.

I had enjoyed recording improvised piano music in this manner before (most notably a nine-movement suite entitled Remembrances from an earlier MHR CD, “Hashoah Lamentations”); but it had been ten years or so since then, and I thought it was high time to ad-lib another suite.

While on this CD the movements are tracked (or ‘banded,’ to use the old LP word), the music is meant to be heard as one continuous 41-minute piece, much in the manner of Keith Jarrett’s solo piano concerts.

Jarrett is undoubtedly a main musical influence throughout, as are fellow pianists Chick Corea (especially his early solo piano improvisation recordings), Herbie Hancock and Lyle Mays (particularly in the last movement, The Rainbow), and many classical piano composers (Alexander Scriabin, Paul Hindemith and the French Impressionists come to mind).

Here are brief words about each of the six movements:

1. The Ark and its assembly is represented by the four-note theme beginning with G-F-Eb-C and then passing through many tonal centers. While Noah is supervising its construction, I wished to represent ordinary people going about their everyday lives, most oblivious to the flood about to consume them. This ‘meandering’ quality is suggested by the many shifting major triads (with more minor triads appearing as the movement progresses). Nervous octaves are heard more prominently towards the end of the movement, suggesting something ominous in the air…

2. The Flood hits, and anxiety prevails. Random devastation is suggested by both the loud octaves and by the rapidly played downward fifths (‘a’ to ‘d’; ‘f#’ to ‘b’; etc.). Crashing waves appear in the last half of the movement, represented by the harsh chordal clusters (especially the half-steps) and by the quickly played runs up and down the keyboard.

3. The Dove is represented in free flight – hovering over the water, looking for land. Whole steps are introduced, as are broken clusters which morph into more static chords. The octaves which were heard prominently in the previous movement briefly return midway through. The blues scale is even heard for a time. The ending signifies the dove flying away, never to return to Noah and his ark.

4. Reflections signifies the quiet, sober thoughts of Noah and his people pondering the devastation wrought by the flood. The main musical ideas are the whole step interval and the ‘splitting of the octave.’

5. The Aftermath of the flood represents new life forming from the wreckage, activity which is disjointed at times (even random). Octave playing is again the main performance idea, coupled with a healthy use of fifths (again) and the diminished scale.

6. The Rainbow signifies God’s promise and protection, and is centered upon the comforting idea that everything will turn out all right in the end. ‘Singing’ melodic phrases over steady, peaceful chords are heard in tandem with a calm rhythmic underpinning. The gradually changing harmonies suggest the peoples’ eyes tracking the colors of the rainbow as they ‘bleed into each other’ (from red to orange to yellow, etc.). Octaves and fifths are again featured, but this time played much more quietly. The Rainbow brings the flood saga to a warm and restful conclusion.

In the LP era, “The Flood and the Rainbow” would have neatly filled out both full sides of a record. Due to the extra time possibilities inherent in the compact disc, I happily went back into the vaults and located two additional performances – never before released – as bonus tracks. Both pieces were recorded five years earlier than “The Flood…” and have simply been waiting for the right moment to be heard. This is that moment.

The two bonus tracks are quietly reflective in nature, continuing the mood of The Rainbow. The first, trumpeter Miles Davis’s ballad Flamenco Sketches, is the least-performed classic from his 1959 seminal jazz LP “Kind of Blue” featuring pianist/composer Bill Evans. I had always loved this piece (still do) and wanted to try my hand at a more expanded arrangement somewhat reminiscent of Evans, who had a huge influence on the original recording (the opening chordal sequence being his earlier Peace Piece, and ‘borrowed’ by Miles, never crediting Evans as co-composer).

By changing key centers, by adding different meters, by interspersing rubato sections between the sections in tempo, and especially by asking my friend Mike Metheny to add his gorgeous flugelhorn playing to the proceedings, we ended up with a very long duet performance akin to creating an improvised novel. Its different sections remind me of distinct chapters of a book (or perhaps characters of a movie; something along these lines). Mike’s playing is wonderful throughout, and his almost three-minute a capella improvisation (beginning at 16:26) ranks among the most profound and beautiful musical performance I have ever heard, on any instrument and in any style! I am deeply honored Mike’s very special musical ideas are again included on an MHR recording.

The last bonus track, On the Water, is a solo piano piece which suggests looking out over a placid country lake on a peaceful summer day. As its general style is more influenced by Claude Debussy’s musical language than by anyone else’s, I thought to include an improvised quote from Debussy’s La Mer. A careful listen will also reveal snippets of George Friedrich Handel’s Water Music and Pat Metheny’s Sea Song. Even the more rhythmic ending suggests the Caribbean – Sonny Rollins’s St. Thomas, perhaps? So much for the musical puns…

A final word to my students and colleagues: As with other projects of mine (“New Inventions” in particular), I hope this music inspires you to improvise your own creations. I look forward to hearing them!

Paul Hofmann