Bruce Hornsby


(Copyright © 1999-2024 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
The Way It Is (1986), 6/10
Scenes From the Southside (1988), 6.5/10
A Night on the Town (1990), 6.5/10
Harbor Lights (1993), 6/10
Hot House (1995), 6.5/10
Spirit Trail (1998), 6.5/10
Here Come the Noise Makers (2000), 5/10
Big Swing Face (2002)
Halcyon Days (2004), 5/10
Intersections (2006), 5/10
Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby (2007), 5/10
Camp Meeting, 6/10
Levitate (2009), 5/10
Bride of the Noisemakers (2011), 5/10
Rehab Reunion (2016), 6/10
Absolute Zero (2019), 7/10
Links:

Bruce Hornsby, a Los Angeles-based songwriter and pianist who was inspired by Leon Russell, debuted with The Way It Is (RCA, 1986), an album of soulful ballads that relied on a light-weight combo and jazz piano (his signature song The Way It Is, Mandolin Rain). Scenes From the Southside (RCA, 1988) includes the hits Jacob's Ladder, The Valley Road (a ditty that hides influences ranging from Keith Jarrett to McCoy Tyner), The Road Not Taken, and marks Hornsby's golden age. Around the same time Don Henley also had a hit with Hornsby's The End Of Innocence.

A Night on the Town (RCA 1990) showed the first signs of commercial decline, as Hornsby distanced himself from the "artificial" sound of previous albums (electronic backdrop, countless overdubs) and embraced a "rock" attitude (a real band and even a Jerry Garcia on guitar in the emphatic Across the River), or at least a country-rock one. The harrowing Fire On The Cross (with jazz veteran Wayne Shorter on saxophone and bluegrass veteran Bela Fleck on banjo) and the jazzy ballad Stander on the Mountain (Charlie Haden on bass) signal a more erudite stage of his career.

In the meantime, he had become Grateful Dead's keyboardist, and that experience helped him focus on the jazz side of his art. Harbor Lights (RCA, 1993), recorded by a basic trio of keyboards, bass and drums and augmented with a cast of pop superstars, is therefore a less entertaining but more profound statement of his art (Tide Will Rise, Fields Of Gray, with a melody borrowed from Ben King's Stand By Me, and Pastures of Plenty, which sounds like Grateful Dead); and Hot House (RCA, 1995) is his mature statement as an artist: lengthy melodic fantasies (Spider Fingers, The Changes, The Tango King, Country Doctor) that express a soul rather than a marketing campaign. However, Walk In The Sun and Big Rumble were still trying to sell this brainy style to the masses.

The ambitious double album Spirit Trail (RCA, 1998) is probably too much for Hornsby's limited originality, but still provided repertoire material such as Line In The Dust, Preacher in the Ring, Sneaking Up On Boo Radley, Sunflower Cat.

After the live album Here Come the Noise Makers (2000), the Noisemakers being his backing band, Hornsby reinvented himself as an electronica auteur on Big Swing Face (RCA, 2002), a collection of songs that he "designed" and arranged, but hardly played at all. The sound was updated to the latest techno/ambient/hip-hop production techniques (Sticks and Stones, This Too Shall Pass). Halcyon Days (2004) was an immediate return to his piano-based balladry. A lot of unreleased material surfaced on the four-disc box-set Intersections (1985-2005) (2006). After Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby (2007), a collaboration with bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs, and a jazz album, Camp Meeting, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jack DeJohnette, the Noisemakers penned the mediocre Levitate (2009) and the live Bride of the Noisemakers (2011).

Rehab Reunion (2016) was a detour into folk music, with a dulcimer-driven sound (no piano), plenty of violins and mandolins, and old-fashioned vocal harmonies.

Never tired of changing title with every album, the eclectic Hornsby disoriented his listeners again with the daring arrangements of Absolute Zero (Zappo, 2019). Hornsby is unique in having acquired the vocabulary of four different worlds: pop, jazz, folk and avantgarde music. The jazz lessons drive Absolute Zero, with solemn woodwinds and Jack DeJohnette's drumming, and Voyager One, which harks back to funk-jazz of the 1970s, and perhaps also the syncopated chamber pop of Fractals. Folk music permeates the atmosphere of Echolocation (Hornsby plays dulcimer, violin, and percussion instead of piano). His stately pop still fuels Never In This House. Bon Iver's Justin Vernon helps him craft the electronic Cast-Off and especially Meds, which also features guitarist Blake Mills and violinist Rob Moose (both also skilled arrangers). Meds veers into dissonant territory, featuring "John Cage prepared piano samples" and a string orchestra arranged by Rob Moose. When these elements collide and cross-pollinate, they give rise to Take You There (Misty), which evokes bombastic prog-rock of the 1970s, and to the complex orchestrations of The Blinding Light of Dreams, White Noise and Take You There, which defy categorization.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Francesco Romano Spanò )

Bruce Hornsby, un cantante e pianista di Los Angeles, ispirato a Leon Russell, debuttò con The Way It Is (RCA, 1986), un album di ballate sentimentali affidate a leggere combo ed al piano jazz (The Way It IsMandolin Rain sono il suo marchio). Scenes From the Southside (RCA, 1988) contiene i successi Jacob's LadderThe Valley Road (una canzoncina che nasconde influenze che vanno da Keith Jarrett a McCoy Tyner), The Road Not Taken, e segna l’età d’oro di Hornsby. Nello stesso periodo  Don Henley ha avuto il successo con la The End Of Innocence di Hornsby.

 

A Night on the Town (RCA 1990) mostrò i primi segni del declino commerciale, non appena Hornsby si allontano dal sound “artificiale” dei suoi album precedenti (fondale elettronico, ed una miriade di overdubs) abbracciando un’attitudine rock (fronteggiato da una vera band ed addirittura un Jerry Garcia alla chitarra nell’enfatica Across the River), o, semmai, una da country-rock. La straziante Fire On The Cross (con il veterano del jazz Wayne Shorter al sassofono ed il veterano del bluegrass Bela Fleck al banjo) e la ballata jazz Stander on the Mountain (Charlie Haden al basso) segnano una più colta fase della sua carriera.

 

Nel frattempo divenne il tastierista dei Grateful Dead, un’esperienza che lo ha aiutato a concentrarsi sul suo lato jazz. Harbor Lights (RCA, 1993), registrato da un trio di partenza formato da tastiere, basso e batteria, ed impreziosito da un cast di superstars del pop, è meno divertente ma un più profondo testamento della sua arte (Tide Will RiseFields Of Gray, con una melodia presa in prestito da Stand By Me di Ben King e Pastures of Plenty, che suona come i Grateful Dead), mentre Hot House (RCA, 1995) segnò la matura affermazione della sua arte: lunghe fantasie melodiche (Spider FingersThe ChangesThe Tango KingCountry Doctor) che mostrano la sua anima piuttosto che intenzioni commerciali. Comunque, Walk In The Sun e Big Rumble cercarono ancora di vendere il suo stile vispo alle masse.

 

L’ambizioso doppio Spirit Trail (RCA, 1998) è forse troppo per la limitata originalità di Hornsby, ma contiene comunque del materiale da repertorio, come Line In The DustPreacher in the RingSneaking Up On Boo RadleySunflower Cat.

 

Dopo l’album live Here Come the Noise Makers (2000), diventato Hornsby il frontman dei Noisemakers, si è reinventato come amatore dell’elettronica su Big Swing Face (RCA, 2002), una collezione di canzoni da lui “progettate” ed arrangiate, ma di rado suonate. Il sound fu aggiornato alle più moderne tecniche di produzione techno/ambient/hip-hop (Sticks and StonesThis Too Shall Pass). Halcyon Days (2004) fu un immediato ritorno alle sue ballate pianistiche. Un sacco di materiale inedito sbucò fuori da un box-set di quattro dischi,  Intersections (1985-2005) (2006). Dopo una collaborazione con la star del bluegrass Ricky Skaggs, Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby (2007), ed un album jazz, Camp Meeting, insieme al bassista Christian McBride ed il batterista Jack DeJohnette, i Noisemakers scolpirono il mediocre Levitate (2009) ed il live Bride of the Noisemakers (2011).

 

Rehab Reunion (2016) virò verso il folk, con canzoni guidate dal dulcimer (invece che dal piano), pieno di violini e mandolini, ed armonie vocali vintage.

 

Mai stanco di cambiare qualifica su ogni album, l’eclettico Hornsby disorientò nuovamente il suo pubblico con gli audaci arrangiamenti di Absolute Zero (Zappo, 2019). Hornsby è unico nell’aver acquisito il lessico di quattro mondi diversi: pop, jazz, folk ed avanguardia. Le lezioni di jazz guidano Absolute Zero, tra fiati solenni ed il ritmo di Jack DeJohnette, e Voyager One che riporta alla mente il funk-jazz degli anni ’70, e forse anche il sincopato chamber-pop di Fractals. La musica folk permea l’atmosfera di Elocation (nella quale Hornsby suona il dulcimer, il violino e la batteria invece che il piano). Il suo maestoso pop è il carburante di Never In This House. Justin Vernon dei Bon Iver lo ha aiutato a creare l’elettronica Cast-Off, ma soprattutto Meds, che comprende anche il chitarrista Blake Mills ed il violinista Rob Moose (entrambi anche abili arrangiatori). Meds vira verso territori dissonanti, con “samples pianistici preparati da John Cage” ed un’orchestra d’archi arrangiata da Rob Moose. Quando questi elementi si scontrano e si impollinano a vicenda, danno vita a Take You There (Misty), che evoca l’ampolloso prog-rock del ’70, ed alle complesse orchestrazioni di The Blinding Light of DreamsWhite Noise e Take You There, che sfidano le classificazioni.

What is unique about this music database