Home / The Friday Morning Listen: Bruce Hornsby – Camp Meeting

The Friday Morning Listen: Bruce Hornsby – Camp Meeting

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Coming to you LIVE from my buddy Gene's couch in Oneonta, New York: it's the Friday Morning Listen!!

OK, that was kinda weak. Sorry, I just started on my first cup of coffee. But hey, this is the beginning of a rare "guy's weekend" out here: no wives, no kids. It's very quiet here, which feels a little weird but we'll get over it. We're supposed to go see Richie Havens tonight at some outdoor venue. Let me tell you, it's not looking so hot, what with the steady rain and all.

Uh, anyway…Bruce Hornsby! I've got to first admit that, back when I allowed time and energy to be wasted by allowing chips to rest on my shoulder, I hated Bruce Hornsby. Maybe 'hated' is too strong a word, but "The Way It Is" was a big hit and I just couldn't stand it. I just didn't get it. When other songs with his band, The Range, came on the radio, the reaction was mostly the same. There was something about the sameness of the rhythms (the drummer in particular) that blinded me to anything else going on in the music.

Years later, several things happened that really opened my ears. Bruce played the National Anthem with Branford Marsalis at an NBA All-Star game (Whoa, I just looked it up: 1991 Yikes!) Obviously, the man had really big ears to be able to re-harmonize like that. Then I heard some recordings of Hornsby playing with the Grateful Dead. Another example of stellar chops combined with an amazing ability to listen. Then Bruce released Harbor Lights. That did it. The record seemed like a turning point in Hornsby's career. The songs were very wide-open and featured some interesting guest artists (Jerry Garcia, Branford Marsalis, Pat Metheny, Phil Collins) as well as some giant piano chords, chords that finally pushed that chip off my shoulder. I heard that record and labeled myself an idiot for ignoring Hornsby all of those years.

As I drove through the Berkshires of Massachusetts yesterday, I switched back and forth between Joe Satriani's Surfing With The Alien and Hornsby's new Camp Meeting. Yes, a huge contrast in sounds, no doubt about that. But that area of the state affords huge contrasts in viewing: gorgeous mountain outlooks vs. old, abandoned houses and hotels. Really weird. Really beautiful.

So now Hornsby has made a full-on jazz record, with Christian McBride on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. I could see this move coming from way off. Obviously Bruce has both the chops and the ideas to pull it off. Hornsby puts his folksy twist on some well-known jazz tunes as well as a few of his own compositions and even an Ornette Coleman rarity. This isn't just a record for Hornsby fans who might be interested in jazz. No, it's a jazz record all the way through.

The interplay between these individuals is stunning, like they've been playing together for years. 'Chemistry' is the word.

And now I've got to get back to hanging out with a friend who I've known for a very long time. We have a whole lot of nothing to get to.

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About Mark Saleski

  • I was really curious about this when I saw it on your Tuesday piece. I hoped Amazon would put up some clips but, disappointingly, not yet.

    I too had a kind of negative reaction to Bruce way back when, but strangely enough it was more due to a couple of my friends who pretty much ruined any enjoyment I might have gotten out of “The Way It Is.” It was how he sang “get a job” in one of the lines that caught their attention, and every time it came on the radio, they’d both exaggeratedly talk-sing that line. They hated the song, I quite liked it but ultimately their jabs at the song pretty much destroyed it – I couldn’t hear it without hearing them singing that line. I still can’t think of it without that damned line being emphasized, and rings on and on throughout the song in my head. So, to Josh (who is still a close friend, despite this) and John (who I’ve long since lost touch with), “Thanks, assholes.”

  • Cool! There are lengthy excerpts from each track up on Hornsby’s site. This sounds great. I would never have guessed it was Hornsby at the piano. Definitely high on my list.

  • it really is that good.