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Bruce Hornsby: Absolute Zero

Bruce Hornsby
Absolute Zero
(Zappo Productions)

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Arguably best known for his first and biggest charting single, “The Way It Is,” Bruce Hornsby has also been mining a whole bunch of piano-led styles in his career. Playing with the Grateful Dead, creating soundtracks for Spike Lee, the piano player/singer/songwriter has managed to amass a well-honed body of work. With his 21st album, Absolute Zero, we get more innovation from Hornsby, fantastically so, in fact.

Opening with the title track, featuring Jack DeJohnette’s fantastic shuffle snare, we get mournful horn and strings, and a lyric about cryogenic preservation. A frenetic “Fractals,” follows, again with more lyrics centered around science.

Human relationships and science are what most of the lyrics are about.

Using the sextet yMusic on half of these ten tunes, the contemporary read of strings against Hornsby’s piano really adds wonderful production value to what goes on for much of Absolute Zero. Later on, we get the flights of strings on the hoedown “Voyager One” and an even more dangerous string slicing on probably the best tune here, “The Blinding Light of Dreams.” Again the drumming is brilliant on this one, as it is everywhere else on this record, and the harmony vocals mined to a perfect edge.

Absolute Zero is a great record by a master songwriter/musician, still very much at the top of his game. The songs are all gems, masterfully produced, played, and written and the lyrics are nothing short of brilliant in each instance. If this is what maturing as a musician is about, then give me more of it, I say!

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