NEW DATE! JUNE 13, 2021 • 7:30PMBuy Tickets
Tickets: $79, $59, $49, $39, $25 | Limit 8 tickets per billing address
This performance, originally scheduled for June 16th, has been moved to June 13, 2021 at 7:30pm. All tickets will be honored on this new date.
DOORS 7:00PM • SHOWTIME 8:00PM
Bruce Hornsby, the creatively insatiable pianist and singer-songwriter from Williamsburg, Virginia, always has succeeded on his exceptional gifts, his training, and his work ethic. He became a global name in music by reimagining American roots forms as songs that moved with the atmospheric grace of jazz. “The Way It Is” defined sonic joy on the radio, however as a hit record it also evidenced a thrilling re-structuring, and during the years afterward Hornsby, in staggeringly diverse ways, has kept going. He has returned to traditional American roots forms, collaborating with Ricky Skaggs. He has played with the Grateful Dead. He has fused the plunk and dazzle of twentieth-century modernist classical composition to singer-songwriter emotional inquiries. He has scored films. He has performed with symphony orchestras. If the sound of an arrogant air-conditioner or a stretch of rude playing caught his ear, he has entered the hallowed doors of the conservatories of punk. So when Hornsby describes Absolute Zero, his new album, as “a compendium of what I like and moves me,” don’t expect perhaps a thing or two new. Prepare for a multifaceted ride.
Ready for the results? The opening title track features drumming by the legendary Jack DeJohnette — inspired by DeLillo’s Zero K, a book Hornsby describes as about “the cryonic field – or, most baldly put, Ted Williams freezing in a vault somewhere outside Phoenix.” “Fractals,” wherein Hornsby compares a relationship with that “rough and fragmented geometrical shape,” as he puts it, “that can be subdivided into parts.” “Echolocation,” a stylistic cousin of “Fractals,” that Hornsby calls “one of my musical combines.” He’s remembering the American artist and pop art instigator Robert Rauschenberg, who during the 1950s made famous hybrids of tactile painting and sculpture, where almost anything, assembled just so rightly, goes. “That aspect of found materials,” Hornsby says, “collages: That’s exactly what my new album is on a musical level. You go into my studio and there’s just crap everywhere – a Vibra-Slap here, a train whistle there, a crappy old violin I’m playing badly. And then there’s my brother playing some dog-shitty violin that’s vibey as hell.”
Hornsby produced Absolute Zero, his pastiche of sounds” as it calls the album, with assists from Tony Berg, Vernon, and Brad Cook. Some songs, like “Never in This House,” expose traditional Hornsby songwriting semi-nakedly; others, like “Voyager One” – “sort of chamber art-pop meets Prince,” Hornsby says – and “The Blinding Light of Dreams” – with a groove that Hornsby points out dates back to “Serpentine Fire” by Earth, Wind & Fire – re-stage U.S. r&b as fluidly as the music elsewhere refers to an American modernist composer like Elliott Carter. “Meds,” for example, a particular tour de force of Hornsby/Moose featuring special guitar by Blake Mills, blossoms into gripping ‘60s soul choruses. “Cast Off” manages to animate a rare style – miserablist polyrhythms – without skimping on the funk itself.
“White Noise” Hornsby considers “the Wallace moment.” It offers a passionate singer with a string quartet backing him. “The narrative comes from Wallace’s The Pale King,” Hornsby says, “a novel about boredom, about IRS tax examiners as unlikely yet convincing American heroes.” And then “Take You There (Misty),” written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, concludes the sequence with romanticism as re-ordered by Hornsby via memories of Steve Reich’s and Philip Glass’s sonically floral minimalism. A ride. There is precedent for musical artists moving from the mainstream of popular music to…somewhere else: Ohio-born Scott Walker, ruling the airwaves with The Walker Brothers in early-‘60s Britain, then concocting uniquely dark toned symphonic solo albums followed by uncharted lands of vocal compositions even much bleaker. David Byrne, determined that the late-70s downtown Manhattan freedom of Talking Heads expand to include pop styles all over the known universe. Robbie Williams, absolutely dead-set on not letting his ‘90s boyband years preclude pop and rock and swing styles done with uncommon erudition. This stripe of music evolution over time clearly has another member to add to its small and restless club. It’s Bruce Hornsby, a great re-structuralist from the beginning and onward. Absolute Zero constitutes absolute 2019 proof. And all you need to hear it is a set of open ears.
Presented by Count Basie Center for the Arts