Christopher Hoffman: Vision Is The Identity

American cellist and band play a mix of acoustic jazz and contemporary electronica influenced by the music of guest Henry Threadgill


A keystone of Henry Threadgill’s Zooid for over a decade, cellist and composer Christopher Hoffman is also a regular in groups led by Anna Webber, Anat Cohen, Rudy Royston and James Brandon Lewis. His 2021 album Asp Nimbus was one of the records of the year, a re-examination of Bobby Hutcherson’s classic semi-abstract Blue Notes of the mid-60s, and while this latest EP is markedly different in outlook it proves to be no less compelling.

Following the examples of Flying Lotus, BADBADNOTGOOD and Mark Giuliana, Vision Is The Identity finds Hoffman melding acoustic jazz with contemporary electronica. Threadgill’s rhythmic and harmonic theories are front and centre, the great saxophonist even popping up for a rare cameo on one piece, and as Hoffman’s off-kilter grooves collide and interlock with ensemble’s contrapuntal harmonies you could almost be forgiven for thinking that Zooid has gone electric.

Hoffman sketched out the harmonic “bare bones” of the pieces on piano before plugging a variety of 80s Roland drum machines into ProTools and finally adding “live” musicians. Whether scribbling with distorted graffiti or laying down solid baselines, his incisive cello is never far from the action, and he is happy to give his guests space to weave their magic. Threadgill’s piercing solo sends a tingle down the spine on What Comes, Anna Webber’s elegant flute navigates the metric complexities of Better And Better, and Ryan Scott’s moody guitar is suitably menacing on Narc Drop. The low-tech noir of Think From has a John Carpenter-like feel, It Is Done is carried by a bouncy Headhunters groove, and Alfredo Colón’s throwback EWI accents the 80s video-game vibes of the closing Farewell Forever.

With more impact than many albums twice its length, Vision Is The Identity is a vital slice of contemporary New York.

(1) Cloudbuster; (2) What Comes; (1) Think From; It Is Done; (3) Better & Better; (4) Narc Drop; (5) Farewell Forever (24.17)
(1) Hoffman (clo, el clo, kyb, elec); Frank LoCrasto (kyb); Bill Campbell (d). New York, various dates in 2023. (2) add Henry Threadgill (as); Ryan Scott (elg). (3) add Anna Webber (f). (4) add Scott (elg). (5) add Alfredo Colón (EWI).
Out Of Your Head Records OOYH 026