Bruce Hornsby: Absolute Zero Review
By: Griff Stevens
Bruce Hornsby is not new to making music, in fact his latest album Absolute Zero is his 21st leader release, just released on April 12, 2019. Which features collaborations with Justin Vernon and Sean Carey of Bon Iver, Jack DeJohnette, Blake Mills, yMusic, The Staves, and Brad Cook.
He is an American singer-songwriter and pianist. His music over the years has drawn influences from classical, jazz, bluegrass, folk, Motown, gospel, rock, blues, and jam band musical traditions. Hornsby’s recordings have been recognized on a number of occasions with industry awards, including the 1987 Grammy Award for Best New Artist with Bruce Hornsby and the Range, the 1990 Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album, and the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
Overall, Hornsby has enjoyed a varied career, crossing multiple genres in his collaborations and his own discography. Hornsby has worked with his touring band Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers and his bluegrass project with Ricky Skaggs and has worked as a session and guest musician. He was a member of the Grateful Dead from September 1990 to March 1992, playing over 100 shows during that period.
The title track “Absolute Zero” features the amazing and highly original drumming of Jack DeJohnette. It is no secret that Hornsby has an affiliation with jazz and the addition of DeJohnette is a prodigious choice. The songwriting is a beautiful blend of jazz, world, Americana and rock. Hornsby’s vocals are strong, and the lyrics are deep. DeJohnette’s rhythmic sense propels the music in a manner that is a breath of fresh air in the pop/rock genre. The vocal harmonies are beautiful and add to the richness of the texture. The instrumentation keeps the sound stage open to allow DeJohnette’s steady pulse to shine through. Hornsby is pushing the boundaries of pop music by adding such rich rhythms and colorful melodies, creating a ‘chamber pop’ sound that is as rich in character as it is in music.
“Fractals” offers an energetic and complex piano opening that continues as the vocal harmonies soar over it. The activity and colors of the piano part imparts sounds of jazz and classical. The beat and feel finally settles in to a moving pop and funk feel that is refreshingly original. Hornsby seems to be fearless in his approach to building layers and vocal harmony complexities. The music never sounds over crowded or rushed though, instead new feels and harmonic and melodic colors that expand the genre. This is a welcomed breath of fresh air.
Hornsby always puts forth solid albums, his innate ability to push himself as an artist and never feel stagnate, displays the depth of his heart in music. Always in service of the music and pushing himself to new heights. He equally chooses collaborators that enhance his already brilliant ideas with fresh sounds and invigorating musical dialogue and comradery, lending to the depth of music source. Once again Hornsby has outdone himself. A highly recommended listen!
Release Date: April 12, 2019
Label: Zappo Productions