Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Barra Songbook: Ian Hoffman

With Grupo Exito at Piper's Bar.

The hardest working man in rock and roll. Ian Hoffman plugs the musicians of Barra de Navidad mercilessly and has played with most everybody in Jalisco at one time or another.

Not just at Chynna's or Piper's.

Ian Hoffman, drummer extraordinaire, has played with the likes of Bob Weir, David Grisman, to Sam the Sham and Pharaohs. From Jennifer Warnes to the Big Man - Clarence Clemons - Ian has opened for Bob Dylan with The Sorentinos and closed Rey Momo's with Justin and Hugo.

Yes, the hardest working man in rock and roll is not an understatement. Ian is that man in Barra de Navidad.

When asked what's the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of our little paradise by the sea in Mexico, Ian states, "Wow! How lucky am I? I get to live here!"

Ian goes on to say that, "I first came to Barra in 2007 for two weeks...on vacation. I hadn't heard about it before but I did some research on the 'net. I was looking for a funky beach town without resort hotels and Barra and Melaque seemed like the perfect mix of not too big but not too small either."

L.A. born and bred, Ian later kicked it in San Francisco before settling in Barra so he knows his funk. The first concert he saw was The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Hollywood Bowl. But before he was "experienced" Ian grew up in a home where music was loved and appreciated.

Ian in the day.
"My mom loved music and loved to dance. She used to go see all the big bands; Benny Goodman, The Dorsey Brothers, Frank Sinatra, etc... so I remember her playing those records. But the first 45 single I ever bought was "Walk Right In" by The Rooftop Singers."

One of the first Brazilian artists to have a hit in the USA was Walter Wonderly, with the song "Summer Samba". Walter became a close friend and lived with Ian's family for about a year. Walter opened the door and in walked the Brazilians with their wonderful music, food and warmth. There were jam sessions at the house all the time with lots of musicians from Sergio Mendes' Brasil '66 and Herb Albert's Tijuana Brass dropping by.

"My first musical memory is pretty fuzzy," he recalls, "but I remember always wanting to be a drummer...of course The Beatles changed everything and that's when I was able to convince my folks to let me start learning to play drums."

And play he did.

Ian began playing drums at age 12 and was classically trained by the well respected teacher, Dartagnan d'Liagre. A quick learner, Ian earned his degree with the National Association of Rudimental Drummers by age 13.

Of his first gig, Ian laughs, "I'm sure I didn't get paid for my first few performances but I had a band in 1965 called The Zone and we got paid for a dance we played at our Jr. High School." By 20, Ian was on the road touring, making a buck and still learning his craft having studied with legendary drummers and teachers, Chuck Flores and Ed Thigpen along the way.

Thirty years later, he's still making a buck, still loving his craft and getting the best performances out of his fellow musicians. The hardest working man in rock and roll - Barra edition - is still hustling gigs in the dog days of summer. "Since I play in so many bands I am not sure exactly who I will be playing with next season."

Keep your ears posted next winter in Barra. That rhythm you hear from a bar up above could be the sound of one man loving his drums.

(The Barra Songbook is intended to be a regular feature on this site. If you know of, or are a musician who should be featured within these pages have them contact us. Without the musicians of Barra de Navidad we'd be dancing to canned music. We are all richer for having them entice us out on the dance floor.)

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