Record of the Day: Bruce Hornsby, "Big Swing Face"

Record of the Day: Bruce Hornsby, “Big Swing Face”

Bruce Hornsby
Big Swing Face (Cd RCA 0786368024-2)

Quality pianist and singer, invaluable collaborator on Grateful Dead tours and guest on over two hundred records as a keyboard player, Bruce Hornsby had the misfortune to explode into the charts around the world with his first album “The Way It Is”, which towed from the single of the same name raged almost everywhere in 1986. That work was followed by other excellent records such as “Scenes from the Southside”, “A Night on the Town”, “Harbor Lights”, which featured Hornsby in the company of Pat Metheny, Branford Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Henderson, Jimmy Haslip; yet for the public of the charts Bruce remained (and remains today) solely the author of that first success.

The frustration with this restrictive artistic position became such that in 2002 Hornsby decided to make a record that was deliberately as far away as possible from the typical sound expected of him. Together with producer David Bendeth he chose songs much more oriented towards rhythm rather than melody, full of sampled loops and electronic keyboards with a strong pop/dance imprint, where the piano so loved by fans was almost absent. The result was a catastrophe from a commercial point of view, but exceptional from an artistic one and above all it marked an authentic liberation for Hornsby, finally freed from the specter of the first album.

His voice runs wonderfully on the continuous pulsation of the rhythmic bases and integrates perfectly with the soundscapes that pay homage to the 70s of powerful songs such as “Sticks and Stones”, “Cartoons and Candy” (in which Muddy Waters also appears sampled ) and “Take Out the Trash”, where Hornsby gives us a phenomenal, saturated-sounding Fender Rhodes piano solo.
Even pieces with a calmer flow such as “The Chill” and “The Good Life” are always full of rhythmic restlessness, with sarcastic lyrics that denounce the emptiness of a world mainly dedicated to consumerism.

In “No Home Training” and “Try Anything Once” even rap appears, which horrified the faithful at the time but in reality sounds perfectly consistent with the artistic choices of the album.

The break with previous works is total, Hornsby projects himself into the future by taking a path that the subsequent “Halcyon Days” only partially rectified by returning towards a more pop direction

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.