Almost three decades after winning a Grammy for Best New Artist and launching one of contemporary music’s most diverse careers, Bruce Hornsby still makes joyful noise as he discovers clever and expansive ways to chronicle dynamic musical snapshots of his often generously collaborative journey.
Nothing better illustrates this than Hornsby’s communion with his longtime band, the Noisemakers. And nothing catches that connection with more daring fluency than a couple of live collections released eleven years apart; 2011’s “Bride of the Noisemakers,” a set of concert recordings from 2007 to 2009, and 2000‘s “Here Come the Noisemakers,” which initially unveiled Hornsby and his band’s free-wheeling live approaches to the Virginia-born pianist and composer’s memorable songs.
“I think the guys in the Noisemakers like the gig because there’s never a dull moment and we attempt to keep the spontaneity factor high,” Hornsby said. “The idea always is, ‘Watch Bruce.’ I’m a fairly loose leader and I don’t like to rehearse. We mostly just ride around the country on a bus and laugh a lot. Hopefully you can hear that loose spirit in our shows.”
Times and band members change, and Hornsby knows it. Yet for all his forward thinking he remembers the past. “As the years go by and my music evolves, I’ve been increasingly interested in hearing some new sounds in my band,” he says. “As I get older, I’ve become more of a folkie than a jazzer, and I’ve felt the need to move the music accordingly.”
For all his talents as a singer, bandleader and pianist with an instantly identifiable sound, Hornsby is a songwriter at heart committed to portraying his songs in changing ways that allow them to expand organically.
This approach was further developed by Hornsby’s time with The Grateful Dead when he joined the legendary band between 1990 and 1995 for over a hundred shows.
In the Dead’s vibrant tradition of loosely blending improvised folk and blues Hornsby found a shared musical aesthetic.
In recent years, he has pushed his artistic limits, working with bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, The Bruce Hornsby Trio, and jazz legend Charlie Haden.
Hornsby has also scored a number of projects for filmmaker Spike Lee including the documentary “Kobe Doin’ Work,” “Red Hook Summer,” and the upcoming “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.”
Hornsby has contributed to all-star collections that pay tributes to Fats Domino, The Band and most recently, Jackson Browne.
A music graduate of the University of Miami, Hornsby also has partnered with its Frost School of Music to establish the Creative American Music Program, a curriculum designed to develop the creative skills of talented young artist/songwriters by immersing them in the many traditions that form the foundations of modern American songwriting.
The commercial successes and creative achievements of Hornsby’s superstar collaborations, including many sampled passages chosen by hip-hop artists, verify Hornsby’s fusion of wide appeal and musical adventure.
Consider: His albums have sold over 11 million copies worldwide. The title cut from “The Way It Is “was the most played song on American radio in 1987, winning the ASCAP Song of the Year award.
“Harbor Lights” won the 1994 of Downbeat Reader’s Poll Beyond Album of the Year- a citation given to music from any genre apart from jazz or blues.
The late Tupac Shakur, working with Hornsby, fashioned a new song over “The Way It Is” adding new lyrics and calling the result “Changes.” The track was an international hit and sold 14 million copies.
Over the years, Hornsby has played on over a hundred records, including albums by Bob Dylan, Don Henley, the Grateful Dead, Bob Seger, Crosby Stills and Nash, Stevie Nicks, Cowboy Junkies, Squeeze, Chaka Khan, Liquid Jesus, Bonnie Raitt, Shawn Colvin, Bela Fleck, Clint Black, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Scruggs, and Willie Nelson.
Hornsby contributed end-title songs for the Spike Lee films “Clockers” and “Bamboozled.”
Hornsby and The Noisemakers are part of the Lexus of South Atlanta Summer Concert Series and will take the stage at The Fred Saturday night June 21.
Tickets may be purchased online at amphitheater.org, or at the Fred Box Office. Call 770-631-0630 for information. Gates open at 7 p.m., ChessBoxer, the opening act, will go on at 8 p.m.