Berklee Today: On His Own Terms

Mark Small
September 10, 2007
Bruce Hornsby '74
The late Dean Earl (left) and Bruce Hornsby reunited at Berklee's Licks Cafe when Hornsby paid a visit to the college in 1991.
Photo by Sean Smith
Photo by Andrew Taylor

Drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Christian McBride, and singer/songwriter/pianist Bruce Hornsby are sitting backstage after a concert at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, Massachusetts. The trio has just finished the first date of an August tour coinciding with the release of Hornsby's latest CD, Camp Meeting. The disc is Hornsby's first jazz album, released after a 22-year run in the pop world that has netted him a string of hit songs, album sales approaching 11 million, and three Grammy Awards. With the excitement of the first gig still palpable, Hornsby is doing a postmortem: what went well and what he wants to tighten up before the group's next performances at the Newport Jazz Festival and the Hollywood Bowl.

The trio's wide-ranging program includes several solo piano/vocal renditions of deep album tracks, all 11 selections from Camp Meeting, and two movements from Anton Webern's Variations for Piano, Op. 27 tossed in spontaneously. Among the highlights were Keith Jarrett's introspective "Death and the Flower," up-tempo readings of songs by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, the bluegrass-inflected Hornsby original "Stacked Mary Possum," and a lighthearted version of "Talk of the Town" that featured DeJohnette drumming and trading vocal lines with Hornsby. The Northampton audience called for multiple encores that ended with a minor-key solo rendition of Hornsby's hit "Mandolin Rain."

Read more about Bruce Hornsby '74 in Berklee Today.