Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Smooth, complex, and melodic Jazz from the Bruce Hornsby Trio

I have written before about Bruce Hornsby. I have tremendous respect for his virtuosity, his songwriting, and his versatility. Today, I want to focus on his versatility. After a recent day when my iPod spun a few Hornsby tracks in a row, I decided to go back and see what my library had. I found a disc called ‘Camp Meeting.” Didn’t know anything about it, since it was a library search listing. I just ordered it and figured I would give it a listen.

Bruce Hornsby Trio Camp Meeting

Honestly, this is the best new Jazz disc I've heard in years.

Holy cow. What serendipity. Turns out it’s a Jazz collaboration between Bruce Hornsby, Christian McBride, and Jack Dejohnette put out in 2007. I’ve seen them listed in a couple places as The Bruce Hornsby Trio and the fact that their ensemble has given itself a name gives me hope they’ll do this again.

Jack DeJohnette is a Jazz drummer, pianist, and composer from Chicago who has played with Keith Jarret, Bill Evans, and Miles Davis, among others. Christian McBride is a stand-up bass player from Philadelphia who has played with Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, The Roots, Sting, James Brown, and others. Hornsby, obviously, has been a solo artist for decades and toured with the Grateful Dead before Jerry’s death.

The disc is full of my favorite kind of Jazz. It’s a simple 3-piece, their work is melodic, and all thee musicians play their asses off. The pleasing melodies remind me at times of Vince Guaraldi. If you put it on as background music while you enjoy a few drinks with friends, it will keep a vibe going nicely. If you put on headphones you will be full engaged as they move between head-bobbing and jaw-dropping. Of the 11 tracks on the disc, I want to recommend at least these 7.

  • Questions and Answers – The disc kicks off with this old Ornette Coleman tune. It is one of the more frantic and least melodic tracks on the album, but the complexity of their arrangement and the ease with which they attack it are impressive. Pay particular attention to the percussion. Amazing.
  • Charlie, Woody and You/Study #22 – This original composition starts out disjointed, but after a while, they get this lurching beast to dance and they really swing it.
  • Camp Meeting – Hornsby wrote this one too. This chord progression is one that makes me think of Guaraldi. I swear Hornsby must have 3 hands to make this much music at one time.
  • Celia – Where ‘Questions and Answers’ was a frantic run and ‘Charlie, Woody and You/Study #22’ was a disjointed dance, this is an easy stroll. They take almost 8 minutes with this one but it never gets dull.
  • Stacked Mary Possum – I don’t know why Jazz guys are unable to resist giving their compositions names like this one. It must make them smile. The song doesn’t sound vaguely possum-ish to me. It’s a busy, melodic toe-tapper. Maybe my favorite on the disc.
  • Straight, No Chaser – Their take on this Thelonius Monk song is great. The bass walks all over, DeJohnette plays on every surface on his kit, and Hornsby likewise plays nearly every note his piano can make. The whole thing stays disciplined, however, in service to the song the whole way.

As I listened to this marvelous disc I got to thinking that Bruce Hornsby reminds me of Bela Fleck in that both men have succeeded at whatever I’ve heard them try musically. I wondered if the two ever worked together and it turns out they played a concert in 1996. I’m going to have to see if I can find a recording of that.

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November 2, 2009 - Posted by | Jazz

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