Music gets only more interesting -- and varied -- for Bruce Hornsby
Share with others:
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After a quarter-century of furthering a sense of songcraft that shed one stylistic skin after another as it evolved, Bruce Hornsby figured the time had come for a sit-down.
It wasn't just that the Grammy-winning pianist, vocalist and composer needed a break. Although in a career that had sailed nonstop through radio stardom, a tenure with the Grateful Dead and recordings that embraced jazz, bluegrass and various rock and classical accents, Mr. Hornsby probably could have used a breather. But taking 2010 off from the road proved necessary to find the right way to promote a performance career with distinct, dual personalities.
He wanted to find the best avenues to showcase his solo piano performances and concerts with his long-running band The Noisemakers.
"Interestingly enough, I felt it was time to kind of reinvent how we presented ourselves as concert artists," Mr. Hornsby said by phone last week. "For the last four or five years, we've observed that my solo shows have been outdrawing my band concerts. So I thought, let's try and ingratiate ourselves to the festival circuit and kind of mine that area for the band more."
Mr. Hornsby's 2011 concert album, "Bride of the Noisemakers," was pulled from three years of performances, and the repertoire offers a crash course in just how stylistically expansive his music has become. It revisits '80s songs cut with his breakthrough band The Range ("Defenders of the Flag"), progressive works from '90s-era solo albums ("Shadow Hand") and newer, leaner music forged by The Noisemakers (the title tune to 2009's album "Levitate").
But there are also diverse covers (Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," Keith Jarrett's "The Wind Up" and the Grateful Dead's "Standing on the Moon") as well as hints of Mr. Hornsby's fascination with numerous classical inspirations (snippets of Anton Webern, Elliot Carter and Samuel Barber pepper the album). "Bride of the Noisemakers" luxuriates in a sound that is as clean and exact as it is flexible and adventurous.
"Listen to my first record (1986's "The Way It Is") and listen to 'Bride of the Noisemakers,' " he said. "They are completely different. I'm in a constant search for inspiration. It's funny, though. The two areas I'm most involved with now are polar opposites.
"One is songwriting. It's not quite as informed by jazz as it once was. I'm into more of this very basic, gut-bucket songwriting. The other is modern classical music. I've inflicted some of that on my audiences -- a little Webern, a little Schoenberg. That's informing a lot of my newer music."
The coming months will see the release of a live collaborative album with country-bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs (the two released a studio record in 2007), a soundtrack to the Spike Lee documentary "Red Hook Summer" and a solo concert album. Already out is "Dirty Ground," a tune Mr. Hornsby wrote and recorded for veteran jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette's new album "Sound Travels." And in the works is new music that marks a blooming songwriting partnership with the prolific Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.
First Published June 16, 2012 12:00 am