Album: Bruce Hornsby

Halcyon Days, COLUMBIA
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The Independent Culture

Anyone who has witnessed Bruce Hornsby's one-man tour of 20th-century piano - a bravura demonstration of jazz and blues styles, from Meade Lux Lewis to Thelonious Monk, Fats Waller to Professor Longhair, Errol Garner to Dr John - knows that he is probably the most gifted keyboard technician of his generation. Certainly, the presence on this, his ninth album, of friends such as Eric Clapton, Sting and Elton John gives some indication of the esteem in which Hornsby is held by fellow musicians. He's also, of course, an accomplished songwriter, and combines the two aspects of his craft impressively on Halcyon Days, with a series of dazzling Randy Newman pastiches such as the whimsical celebration of learning, "Hooray for Tom", and especially the self-deprecating "What the Hell Happened", a humorous showstopper which starts out with a standard ragtime arrangement before flying off into a virtuoso piano solo that buzzes around countless different styles. Elsewhere, an organ lends the title track a so

Anyone who has witnessed Bruce Hornsby's one-man tour of 20th-century piano - a bravura demonstration of jazz and blues styles, from Meade Lux Lewis to Thelonious Monk, Fats Waller to Professor Longhair, Errol Garner to Dr John - knows that he is probably the most gifted keyboard technician of his generation. Certainly, the presence on this, his ninth album, of friends such as Eric Clapton, Sting and Elton John gives some indication of the esteem in which Hornsby is held by fellow musicians. He's also, of course, an accomplished songwriter, and combines the two aspects of his craft impressively on Halcyon Days, with a series of dazzling Randy Newman pastiches such as the whimsical celebration of learning, "Hooray for Tom", and especially the self-deprecating "What the Hell Happened", a humorous showstopper which starts out with a standard ragtime arrangement before flying off into a virtuoso piano solo that buzzes around countless different styles. Elsewhere, an organ lends the title track a soulful gospel air appropriate to a moral sermon ("Some rise by wrong/ And some by virtue fall/ But those convicting may be the guiltiest of all"), while songs such as "Mirror on the Wall" and "Circus on the Moon" focus on the hopes and fears of children in an uncertain world.

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