Dialogues in Rhythm

Total Time — 66:15


  1. Prologue 5:27
  2. Enigma 4:29
  3. Swagger 8:04
  4. Memorabilia 6:54
  5. Crazy Thirds 3:08
  6. Patterns 7:17
  7. Interlude 1:43
  8. Blues 5:55
  9. Digression 5:00
  10. Textures 9:54
  11. Laughter 3:09
  12. Epilogue 5:16
  • All compositions by Paul Hofmann / Tommy Ruskin (PBH Music BMI)
  • Produced by Paul Hofmann
  • Recorded December 28, 2009 at Soundtrek Studio I, Kansas City, MO
  • Engineered by Ron Ubel and Justin Wilson
  • Digital editing by Justin Wilson
  • Art direction and design by Keith Kavanaugh
  • Photography by David Turner

Dialogues in Rhythm

“When you improvise, it is axiomatic that you take risks and can't foretell results...[t]hat is its charm.”


Musical improvisation is the outward expression of internal desire. To the improviser, what one ‘thinks’ is expressed in the language of music. “Dialogues in Rhythm” exemplifies this description to the fullest extent of its meaning.

Paul Hofmann and Tommy Ruskin have a lot to say. Here their many years of music making have helped create an album filled with listening pleasure. At times these performances are searching and introspective; sometimes classical in nature; sometimes swinging, sometimes cool; but always musical.

Paul is both an accomplished pianist and composer. Throughout this program he uses his compositional talent to create improvisations which flatter his piano skills while setting musical moods for Tommy Ruskin’s imaginative drumming. These moods are not “you play, I'll play” events but integrate musical phrases and rhythms that are enhanced by the ability of each player to listen carefully. Thus, the spontaneous collaboration which happens between Paul and Tommy would never happen again in precisely the same way.

Tommy’s sensitivity, rhythmic stability and ability to swing in any style – coupled with his excellent drum set sound – all provide a rhythmic pallet for Paul’s pianistic ideas. While Tommy never gets in the way of Paul’s melodic material, he always adds rhythmic interest to it. This is not something all drummers can do; but Tommy has mastered this ability and it enriches the results of this album.

“Dialogues in Rhythm” is an excellent recording sure to capture the attention of any music lover, whether classical or jazz. Here the talents of Paul Hofmann and Tommy Ruskin have provided the listener with over an hour of enjoyable music. The journey from the Prologue to the Epilogue is well worth the trip.

John Beck
Professor Emeritus of Percussion
Eastman School of Music

Paul Hofmann and Tommy Ruskin These duets were entirely improvised over a few hours of recording one memorable day in Kansas City. Part jazz and classical piano, part jazz drums...perhaps the most accurate label for this music might be ‘chamber jazz.’ Whatever the category, this is one of the most musically satisfying projects I’ve ever been involved with.

As much as I enjoy writing and arranging, a big part of me has always loved the risky adventure of improvisation. (Those Crazy Thirds, for instance...) Apart from the track Blues (our one attempt to interpret a traditional harmonic sequence), there was nothing pre-planned; Tommy and I simply sat down and played. Fortunately, from the start we were so on the same musical wavelength that virtually all of what we recorded ended up being included as part of this 66-minute suite.

Tommy Ruskin has long been one of my favorite drummers, ever since we met in the early 1990s when we both lived and worked in Kansas City. During this time we regularly proceeded to make music together, on recordings and for various club dates – including a memorable Nebraska quartet gig with Kevin Mahogany broadcast on public television.

Dig Tommy’s street beats on Swagger and Blues. During Swagger, his unexpected reference to Vernel Fournier’s famous Poinciana beat was something I smiled at (and fortunately picked up on). And Tommy’s sympathetic playing on such tracks as Memorabilia and Textures is uniquely creative. It’s no wonder so many people, including Stan Getz, have admired his playing over the years.

Throughout, there are many examples of our latching onto short rhythmic riffs as the basis for the ad-libs which follow. Even in the quieter, more reflective pieces, the glue which tends to hold everything together is the rhythmic content. Hence, the title: “Dialogues in Rhythm.” I think that’s an apt description of this music, on several levels.

Many of our tracks begin with solo piano explorations which then lead into Tommy’s imaginative drumming. At various places in this music you’ll hear Tommy utilizing everything from sticks to mallets to brushes, and even using his hands on the drum heads, all in the service of the music. It was great fun having such meaningful dialogues with Tommy, and we both hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed creating these new musical worlds.

Paul Hofmann