BRUCE HORNSBY ‘Absolute Zero’ – CD


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Absolute Zero is officially Bruce Hornsby’s first solo album since 1998’s Spirit Trail. On it, Hornsby seizes the opportunity for reinvention, packing Absolute Zero with everything from chamber pop to jazz fusion and modern classical. All of his myriad musical interests are explored here, usually with the assistance of collaborators. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon co-writes “Cast-Off”; Jerry Garcia’s old lyricist Robert Hunter pens lyrics for “Take You There (Misty).” Fusion legend Jack DeJohnette lends some asymmetrical rhythms to several tracks.

From the outset of his career, Hornsby embraced modernity, which means the real difference with Absolute Zero is that he’s no longer exclusively interested in writing pop songs. A sly synthesis of past and present as well as acoustic and synthetic instruments, is the key to Hornsby’s music and why it endures. “I’m in search of the chills,” Hornsby says. “That leads me very far afield, ranging from old-time traditional music, folk music, bluegrass, country, shape note singing, gospel music, the black tradition in church music, to the most astringent, acrid, dodecaphonic modern classical music that I regularly inflict on my poor unsuspecting audience, much to their chagrin.”

But Hornsby plays with elegance, at ease with both his traces of hipness and essential squareness. It’s a confidence that arrives with both comfort and age and it’s what unifies all the disparate elements of Absolute Zero, shaping the album into a testament to the full range of Hornsby’s gifts.