Twenty five years after winning a Best New Artist Grammy and launching one of contemporary music's most diverse and collaborative careers, Bruce Hornsby is still, blissfully, making joyful noise - and finding clever, expansive ways to chronicle the dynamic musical snapshots along the journey. Now comes the release of Bride Of The Noisemakers - an ambitious 25 track, double CD chronicling 2007-2009 live performances of some of the singer/songwriter and pianist's hand-picked songs of the past 20 years. The songs are recorded live capturing the playful, freewheeling spirit and unique chemistry of his longtime band The Noisemakers.
The Noisemakers consists of bassist J. V. Collier (who has played with Hornsby 17 years), keyboardist/organist John "JT" Thomas (21 years), saxophonist flutist Bobby Read (18 years), guitarist/mandolin player Doug Derryberry (13 years) and drummer Sonny Emory (the relative newcomer of the bunch, nine years). Released eleven years after Here Come The Noisemakers, a double-CD live document of the group's early years (with original drummer Michael Baker), Bride Of The Noisemakers is a powerful expression of how the group sounds today.
Tapping into many of the genres that have influenced Hornsby's artistic output over the years—pop, jazz, bluegrass, country and modern classical music—Bride of the Noisemakers features songs from previous releases such as Big Swing Face (2002), Halcyon Days (2004), and Levitate (2009) in addition to Camp Meeting (2007), which featured bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jack DeJohnette, and Hornsby's acclaimed 80s and 90s releases, including Scenes From The Southside (1988), Hothouse (1995) and Spirit Trail (1998).
"I think the guys in the Noisemakers like the gig because there's never a dull moment and we attempt to keep the spontaneity factor high," says Hornsby. "The watchword is always, 'Watch Bruce.' I'm a fairly loose leader and I don't like to rehearse! We mostly just ride around the country on a bus and laugh a lot. Hopefully you can hear that loose spirit in our shows; I just don't take things too seriously."
For all his talents as a singer, bandleader and pianist with an instantly identifiable sound, Hornsby is a songwriter at heart who is committed to portraying his songs in new ways that allow them to evolve and expand. This approach was further developed by his time with The Grateful Dead, playing over one-hundred shows with the band between 1990 and 1995. Hornsby found in the Dead's vibrant tradition of loosely blending folk, blues and improvisation a kindred spirit.
In recent years, Hornsby has pushed his artistic limits working with bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, The Bruce Hornsby Trio and jazz legend Charlie Haden. Hornsby has also scored the Kobe Bryant documentary ("Kobe Doin' Work") for Spike Lee and contributed to all-star collections paying tribute to Fats Domino and The Band. A University of Miami music alum, Hornsby has also partnered with The Frost School of Music to establish the Creative American Music Program, a curriculum designed to develop the creative skills of talented young artist/songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions that form the foundation of modern American songwriting.
"In the spirit of musical evolution, I'm always trying to keep my band on their toes," Hornsby says. "I was a sideman once and I know the kind of dismal prison it can become when you play the same thing the same way night after night, as if there's the same set list for the year. In the ten years since we released our first Noisemakers project, we are a very different group, anchored by a different drummer in Sonny Emory, who joined shortly after Michael Baker left. It just felt like it was time to do this again to show what we sound like now. It was time for a document of what I feel are definitive versions of these songs."
In July of 2006, Bruce Hornsby released a 4 CD/1 DVD box set titled Intersections (1985-2005) which breaks his lengthy career in music down into three distinct categories: "Top 90 Time," "Solo Piano, Tribute Records, Country-Bluegrass, Movie Scores" and "By Request (Favorites and Best Songs)." Typical of the artist's freewheeling approach to his own music, which involves ensuring that even his most-heard pop songs don't become frozen in time "museum pieces," a full third of the music was previously unreleased and most of the familiar tracks were presented as unreleased live versions. The set also featured "Song H," a new composition which was nominated for a Best Pop Instrumental Grammy Award in 2007.
Intersections is definitive in many ways, yet only tells part of the Virginia native's incredible musical story. His three Grammy wins typify the diversity of his first decade of recording: Best New Artist as leader of Bruce Hornsby and the Range; "Best Bluegrass Recording" for a version of "The Valley Road" that appeared on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will The Circle Be Unbroken Volume II; and a shared award with Branford Marsalis in 1993 for "Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Barcelona Mona," a song for the 1992 Olympic Games.
The sales stats and breadth of his superstar collaborations (including being sampled many times by rap/hip-hop artists) speak volumes about Hornsby's unique fusion of mainstream appeal and wild musical diversity. His albums have sold over 11 million copies worldwide, and the title cut from The Way It Is was the most played song on American radio in 1987, winning the ASCAP "Song of the Year" award. Harbor Lights was the 1994 winner of the Downbeat Reader's Poll Beyond Album of the Year (meaning all music other than Jazz and Blues). Tupac Shakur "co-wrote" a new song over "The Way It Is" music with Bruce, using new words, called "Changes"; it was a major worldwide hit, selling 14 million copies.
He has played on over 100 records over the years, including albums by Bob Dylan, Don Henley, the Grateful Dead, Bob Seger, Crosby Stills and Nash, Stevie Nicks, Cowboy Junkies, Squeeze, Liquid Jesus, Bonnie Raitt (piano on the classic "I Can't Make You Love Me"), Shawn Colvin, Bela Fleck, Clint Black, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Scruggs, Willie Nelson, and end-title songs for two other Spike Lee movies, Clockers (with Chaka Khan), and Bamboozled.
Throughout the years, Hornsby has participated in several memorable events: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opening concert in September 1995 (featured on the Sony 2 CD set), Farm Aid IV and VI, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival, Woodstock II (1994), Woodstock III (1999) (featured on the Epic 2 CD set). An avid sports fan, Hornsby, solo and with Branford Marsalis has performed the National Anthem for many major events including the NBA All-Star game, four NBA finals, the 1997 World Series Game 5, the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's all-time consecutive game streak, and the Ken Burns Baseball soundtrack.
"I can be a slow learner, and sometimes it takes me a while to arrive at the most soulful way to play and sing one of my songs, or anyone's song for that matter. Our approach to playing allows songs to grow, evolve and change through the years, and this second live album documents where that improvisatory mindset has led us up to this point."