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Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers with special guests John Scofield, Kenny Garrett & Christian McBride
The Town Hall, New York, NY
Bruce Hornsby & The NoisemakersBy mid-March 2020 Bruce Hornsby, in that now historical year, had completed a brief tour of five concerts. “Then all of a sudden, wham!” Hornsby remembers, “Everything shut down.” With “Non-Secure Connection” to release in summer, Hornsby began promoting the album. “So that was fine,” he says, following with an innocent refrain that would become spooky that pre-spring among active musicians globally: “But our tours got postponed or cancelled.” “’Flicted,” the album Hornsby then began to create, marks the conclusion of what Hornsby calls a trilogy, inaugurated with the lauded “Absolute Zero” (2019,) in which the native and longtime resident of Williamsburg, Virginia intermingles his diverse musical passions, recording not exactly a self-invented genre but a world of vibrant sound and text all Hornsby’s own. The twelve songs that comprise “’Flicted’ take their starting points from soundtrack scoring, the visuals-linked area of music composition with a distinguished history. Inexorably at home, Hornsby investigated again the “cues” he had written for the director Spike Lee, with whom Hornsby has worked since 1990. These abbreviated instrumental score passages had sparked song creation on his two previous albums. “I was stuck in my house,” Hornsby says, “so I gathered up some cues I hadn’t used on ‘Absolute Zero’ and ‘Non-Secure Connection.” Additionally, he considered closely a riff he had asked a collaborator from ‘Absolute Zero’ – Blake Mills, a Los Angeles songwriter-producer and, as Hornsby describes him, “sprung-from-Zeus guitarist” – to record. “Blake gave me,” Hornsby says, “about a minute-and-a-half of this little thing.” For the final installment of his trilogy, Bruce Hornsby was off to the races. And yet, the 2020 routes of the “’Flicted” songs were less determined by European and American 20th -century modern classical composition than by the fleet ear-bud zings and danceable grooves of 21st-century high-speed rail: This is a Bruce Hornsby album informed by the lucid atonal challenges and serialistdissonant flows of its two predecessors but significantly more pop. Produced by Tony Berg, who adds his sense of 1960s Los Angeles studio rock to the mix, and Hornsby, the broad impression “’Flicted” builds is not divorced from the formally advanced “electric pop” of, say, a heavily streamed Taylor Swift-Zayn Malik duet. This is bold. The contributions on these songs, moreover, made by yMusic, the Brooklyn chamber sextet co-founded by violinist Rob Moose, heightens the command of energy, substance, and rhythm this Hornsby music wields. Rhythm especially: “James Brown,” Hornsby says, citing the instrumental and professional rigor famously, mercilessly enforced in bands led by one of the surest geniuses of any music anywhere, “would not fire yMusic.” This is modern sound not as voiced by Silicon Valley’s lushest tech but rather the blood and flesh and heart of top-flight instudio playing immemorial. Hornsby casts “’Flicted,” as he did the new album’s two predecessors, with the incisiveness Quincy Jones exercised on his own solo albums, always recorded with various singers, musicians, and other creative and technical collaborators. Throughout his long career – begun with his international hit “The Way It Is,” whose romantic Steinway ecstasies the late rapper Tupac Shakur sampled on his track “Changes,” anticipating the current era of The Song v. The Album in recorded pop – Hornsby’s engaging tenor has proceeded consistently. Without employing the idiosyncrasies of Bob Dylan or Neil Young, it travels its own singer-songwriter way, elevating ruminations on Appalachian cultures or addressing urban literary and scientific research with an everyday unruffled ease. Other singers on “’Flicted’ include Ezra Koenig, of New York’s Vampire Weekend; Danielle Haim, lead singer of LA pop-rockers Haim; Ethan Gruska, the Hollywood artist, composer, producer, and member of several West coast indie bands; and Z. Berg, formerly of the LA band The Like. Recently Hornsby and Chip deMatteo, Williamsburg natives, friends and cowriters since kindergarten, spoke about the songs on “’Flicted’.” DeMatteo, a lyricist, writes with the concentrated dramatic force of the canniest theater writers when providing texts for Hornsby’s musical compositions. “Days Ahead,” the third release from the new album, focuses on the complex interlocking observations and anxieties of anticipating periods of some real duration closed away from others, separate and apart from routine daily conduct. “The narrator,” deMatteo says, “dreads the accumulation of the coming weeks, the uncertainty of knowing just how their potentially suffocating natures may unfold, what will happen.” Following that lay the immediate futures of those time periods: “And then the knowing,” deMatteo says, “that going outside as before only mirrors the same concerns.” The text offers a terrifically concise, devastating portrait of the often-warring emotions in the pandemic. Hornsby began his own comments with “Sidelines,” which opens “’Flicted,” continuing in sequence
John ScofieldJohn Scofield has been playing the guitar since 1962. His influence in the music scene began in the mid-70’s and is going strong today. Possessor of a very distinctive sound and stylistic diversity, Scofield is a masterful jazz improviser whose music generally falls somewhere between post-bop, funk edged jazz, and R & B. He began his international career as a bandleader and recording artist in 1975. From 1982-1985, Scofield toured and recorded with Miles Davis. His Davis stint placed him firmly in the foreground of jazz consciousness as a player and composer. Since that time, he has prominently led his own groups in the international jazz scene, recorded close to 50 albums as a leader in the company of such major players as Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Brad Mehldau and Eddie Harris. He’s played and recorded with Tony Williams, Jim Hall, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Dave Holland, MMW, Govt Mule, Lettuce and Phil Lesh to mention a few of his favorites. Throughout his career John has punctuated his traditional jazz offerings with funk-oriented electronic music. Touring the world approximately 200 days per year with his own groups, he's a husband, father, grandfather, and dachshund walker when he's home.
Kenny GarrettWith his illustrious career that includes hallmark stints with Miles Davis, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, as well as a heralded career as a solo artist that began more than 30 years ago, Kenny Garrett is easily recognized as one of modern jazz’s brightest and most influential living masters. And with the marvelous Sounds From The Ancestors, the GRAMMY® Award-winning Garrett shows no signs of resting on his laurels. Kenny Garrett’s latest release, Sounds From The Ancestors, is a multi-faceted album. The music, however, doesn’t lodge inside the tight confines of the jazz idiom, which is not surprising considering the alto saxophonist and composer acknowledges the likes of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye as significant touchstones. Similar to how Miles Davis’ seminal LP, On the Corner, subverted its main guiding lights – James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone – then crafted its own unique, polyrhythmic, groove-laden, improv-heavy universe, Sounds From The Ancestors occupies its own space with intellectual clarity, sonic ingenuity and emotional heft. “The concept initially was about trying to get some of the musical sounds that I remembered as a kid growing up – sounds that lift your spirit from people like John Coltrane, ‘A Love Supreme’; Aretha Franklin, ‘Amazing Grace’; Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On’; and the spiritual side of the church,” Garrett explains. “When I started to think about them, I realized it was the spirit from my ancestors.” Indeed, Sounds From The Ancestors reflects the rich jazz, R&B, and gospel history of his hometown of Detroit. More important though, it also reverberates with a modern cosmopolitan vibrancy – notably the inclusion of music coming out of France, Cuba, Nigeria and Guadeloupe. “It’s Time to Come Home,” a sauntering yet evocative Afro-Cuban modern jazz original, kicks off the album. Garrett’s melodic passages, marked by capricious turns and pecking accents, signals a “call to action” for kids around the world to come home after playing outside all day. This incarnation reflects his experiences playing with iconic Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés. Garrett then pays tribute to the late, great trumpeter and composer Roy Hargrove with the dynamic “Hargrove,” a bracing original that evokes the namesake’s mastery of reconciling hard-bop’s intricate harmonic and interactive verve with late-20th century hypnotic R&B grooves and hip-hop bounce. The song also references John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which accentuates both the earthy and spiritual nature of Hargrove’s music and Garrett’s saxophone virtuosity. Traces of the Black American church also surge through “When the Days Were Different,” a warm mid-tempo original. “The idea was to take it back to the church,” Garrett explains. “It reminds me of being at a gathering with family and friends having a good time eating, drinking and spending quality time together.” On the rhythmically intrepid “For Art’s Sake,” Garrett pays homage to two legendary drummers – Art Blakey and Tony Allen. Bruner concocts a stuttering rhythm that alludes to both modern jazz and Nigerian Afrobeat, while Bird adds polyrhythmic fire with his circular conga patterns. Drums and percussion are again highlighted vividly on the swift “What Was That?” and “Soldiers of the Fields/Soldats des Champs.” The former finds Garrett in quintessential form as he navigates through a thicket of torrential polyrhythms and a jolting harmonic bed with the steely determination and dexterity associated with Coltrane and Jackie McLean. The latter is a magnificent two-part masterpiece that integrates martial beats, Guadeloupean rhythms and a haunting cyclical motif on which Garrett crafts pirouetting improvisations that dazzle with their initial lithe grace and increasing urgent wails. Garrett explains that “Soldiers of the Fields/Soldats des Champs” is a tribute to the legion of jazz musicians who fought to keep the music alive. “They’re the first ones to get hit and shot at in the line of fire on the fields of justice. ‘Soldats des Champs’ is also a tribute to the Haitian soldiers who fought against the French during the Haitian Revolution.” The leader’s love for Afro-Cuban jazz returns on the dramatic title track, which begins with Garrett playing a slow melancholy melody on the piano before the music gives way to a soul-stirring excursion, filled with passionate vocal cries from Trible and moving Yoruban lyrics from Pedrito, paying respect to Orunmila, the deity of wisdom. “It’s about remembering the spirit of the sounds of our ancestors – the sounds from their church services, the prayers they recited, the songs they sang in the fields, the African drums they played and the Yoruban chants,” Garrett says. The album closes as it opens with “It’s Time to Come Home,” this time Garrett uses his saxophone as a rhythmic instrument to have a conversation with the percussionist without the vocal accompaniment.
Christian McBrideChristian McBride is an eight-time GRAMMY Award winning bassist, composer, and bandleader. McBride is the Artistic Director of the historic Newport Jazz Festival, New Jersey Performing Arts center (NJPAC) and the TD James Moody Jazz Festival, and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Christian is also a respected educator and advocate as the Artistic Director of Jazz House KiDS, and the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Sessions. In addition to consistent touring, McBride hosts NPR's “Jazz Night in America” and "The Lowdown: Conversations With Christian" on SiriusXM. Whether behind the bass or away from it, Christian McBride is always of the music. From jazz, to R&B, pop/rock, hip-hop/neo-soul, to classical, he is a luminary with one hand ever reaching for new heights, and the other extended in fellowship—and perhaps the hint of a challenge—inviting us to join him.