It has been 28 years since pianist Bruce Hornsby first released his debut album, “The Way It Is,” which helped jumpstart a remarkable musical career. The world-renowned multi-genre artist continues to march on, and with his six-man band, the Noisemakers, they’ve released a 25-track album titled “Bride of the Noisemakers” that contains all live music recorded at their shows between 2007 and 2009. They will be returning to Greenfield Lake Amphitheater at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 5th, to entertain audiences again, thanks to the Penguin 98.3.
Despite being a world-class musician, Hornsby didn’t begin to play piano until he was 17 years old. From there he dove straight into the world of music headfirst.
“My brother actually turned me on to some great piano-based music,” he tells encore. “Joe Cocker and Mad Dogs and Englishmen, with Leon Russell and Chris Stainton on piano and organ, and Elton John’s ‘Tumbleweed Connection.’ They still sound fantastic now. So I went from there, figuring out how to play that music, and just kept broadening and expanding.”
Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s first hit single, “The Way It Is,” quickly swept the charts and climbed to number one in 1986. The deep song cruises along with an enticing and soothing piano riff, and leads to the soulful chorus. His lyrics touch on politics and the civil rights movement. Hornsby also enjoyed other hits form the album, such as “Mandolin Rain” and “Every Little Kiss.”
Hornsby has played with quite the impressive list of musicians from his early fame, from Bob Dylan to Stevie Nicks, Eric Clapton to Elton John. In 1988 Hornsby’s went on a seven-year stint playing over 100 shows with the Grateful Dead in the early ‘90s, in a recurring collaboration that continued until the band’s devastating loss of lead singer/guitarist Jerry Garcia in August of 1995.
Hornsby manages to fill every track, whether an original or someone else’s, with grave emotion. He doesn’t run through songs over and over again and simply perform; Hornsby listens to them, twists and mixes them up, after he takes them in. His sound is so full and vibrantly flavored with variety it is impossible to place the legend into a single genre.
“The most rewarding aspect of my career has definitely been the collaborations I’ve been a part of, and the great friendships and relationships that have resulted,” Hornsby states. “The special collaborations are, at this point, too numerous to mention, and it would sound like bragging if I did!”
While playing with the Grateful Dead, Hornsby also began to tour and record solo albums. His second solo work, “Hot House,” came out in 1995. He brought to the table a type of music that some fans only could dream of, blending a love for blues, jazz, and mixing in the upbeat, choppy sounds of bluegrass. The album cover showcases an imagined jam session between Mr. Bluegrass himself, mandolinist Bill Monroe, and the legendary jazz-soloist Charlie Parker.
“I’m a schooled musician, and I have always been interested in a broad array of music,” Hornsby says. “I’m really interested in playing my instrument well, and so I’ve delved into the study of everything from classical, modern classical, jazz, bluegrass, blues, New Orleans music, folk, ragtime, stride, and on and on.”
In 2000 Hornsby’s music took yet another turn, as he picked up a new crew of amazing instrumentalists for his current band, The Noisemakers. The Noisemakers consisted of John “J.T.” Thomas (keyboardist/organist), JV Collier (bassist), Sonny Emory (drummer), Bobby Read (fiddle) and Doug Derryberry (guitar). Right off the bat, they played 20 consecutive shows at the most popular jazz venue on the West Coast, Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland. They toured shortly after, and it was chronicled by their first album, “Hear Come the Noisemakers,” which consisted of 18 live tracks. Their 2014 summer tour marks the departure of Read and Derryberry; they’re replaced by fiddle and mandolin player Ross Holmes and guitarist Gibb Droll.
After 19 years playing for RCA Records, Hornsby took a sweeping turn and (with the Noisemakers) released a new acoustically driven album with Columbia Records titled, “Halcyon Days.”
In 2007 Hornsby took another leap and began touring with Grammy Award winning musician and bluegrass all-star Ricky Skaggs. The music the two made hadn’t really been heard before. It was raw power, so in 2007 they released a bluegrass album and incorporated a jazzy piano in “Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby.” “I love playing bluegrass, and hope that Ricky and I will be playing together for years and years,” Hornsby exclaims.
Hornsby continues to play a long, colorful parade of shows. Whether he is on his Steinway & Sons grand piano for a solo classical show, or jamming with Ricky Skaggs, or playing an improv medley with the Noisemakers, or performing with the Grateful Dead-influenced bluegrass group Railroad Earth, Hornsby manages to evolve.
Don’t miss Bruce Hornsby and The Noisemakers this Saturday July 5th at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. A good time is guaranteed!
Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers
Saturday, July 5th, 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $35 adv. | $40 day of
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater