Living Blues Magazine #217 (Volume 43, Issue 1):
Since the early integration of jazz sounds and aesthetics into classical music in the 1920s, through composers such as George Gershwin, George Antheil, and Darius Milhaud, there have been many successful "art music" compositions drawing upon the jazz idiom. There have been far fewer blues/classical fusions, and none that have reached a wide audience. One of the few works to bridge this gap was William Russo's Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra (1968), conceived of by conductor Seiji Ozawa. The most successful exploration of the blues aesthetic through the classical music lens can be heard on this newest release by composer Larry Hoffman.
As a young boy, Hoffman fell in love with American folk music, playing music of the Weavers, the Stanley Brothers, and Joan Baez on ukelele and later banjo and guitar. In college, he discovered jazz and blues. He devoted himself in trying to be the best he could in these musical realms, but found that "he could do but not be this music." A later introduction to the music of Johannes Brahms set Hoffman off on a journey of discovering his real passion and gift: composing.
Larry's first composition to explore the blues through classical music was Blues for Harp, Oboe, and Violoncello (1986). After taking a hiatus, Hoffman resumed composing in 2000, creating several blues inspired pieces, notably String Quartet #1: The Blues (2000) and Blues Suite for Violoncello Solo (2003).
Hoffman masterfully draws upon blues sonorities to present carefully crafted gems of modern American classical music without defaulting to trite mimicry of blues forms or stereotypes. Through utilizing various concepts associated with the blues (12-bar structure, moans, call and response, prison song) and modern classical instrumental technique and sonic palette, Larry Hoffman has found his voice as a composer.
This CD features outstanding performances by the Atlantic String Quartet, oboist John Mack, world famous harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, and others.
Greg Johnson / Blues Curator and Associate Professor /The University of Mississippi
"Former blues journalist and record producer Hoffman has the integrity and compositional acumen to raise awareness of how classical compositions can support a blues sensibility without coming off stilted or contrived. (Others who have succeeded include William Russo, La Monte Young, and Diamanda Galas.) The music of his “String Quartet #1: The Blues,” performed by the Atlantic String Quartet, breathes and flows interestingly for more than fourteen minutes. “Blues Suite For Violoncello Solo,” less a cohesive whole than a bunching of five short incantations of bluesy ache and solace, is a triumph for both the composer and the virtuosic cellist Kristin Ostling, whose phrasing is more flexible than rigid. But “Blues For Harp, Oboe, And Violoncello” is cerebral and static. Two more works don’t concern blues at all."
Frank -John Hadley / Downbeat Magazine / September, 2012