Going solo

Bruce Hornsby at the Victoria Theatre

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Bruce Hornsby will perform at the Victoria Theatre Oct. 18

Bruce Hornsby is no stranger to the Gem City. The Grammy Award-winning musician, whose repertoire spans classical, bluegrass, jazz, folk, rock and blues, will perform at the Victoria Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 18, but this won’t be his first time in Dayton. Hornsby said he has played the Fraze Pavilion in Dayton several times throughout his career, and was the opening act for a 1996 presidential campaign event held for Bill Clinton in downtown.

“I also spent three days touring the aviation museums about 11 years ago with my then 11-year-old son Russell, a future pilot,” Hornsby said.

It’s been three years since Hornsby last played in Dayton, with Béla Fleck in 2011.

“I, hopefully, have learned a few new tricks since then,” he said.

Hornsby’s latest show in Dayton is part of his An Evening with Bruce Hornsby tour to promote his first solo album, appropriately titled Solo Concerts. Audience members will receive a free copy of the CD for each purchased ticket.

“This is the first record where the band is my left hand,” Hornsby said.

He’s been part of many bands throughout his career, including, most notably, Bruce Hornsby and the Range, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers and the Grateful Dead.

Bruce Hornsby and the Range signed with RCA in 1985 and are best known for their first hit, “The Way It Is,” which is still Hornsby’s biggest hit to date. They won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1987. He was also an unofficial member of the Grateful Dead, touring with the band from 1990-1992.

In the early 2000s, Hornsby toured as part of the band Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers. He began playing bluegrass with Ricky Skaggs in 2007, and it was also around that time that he began experimenting with classical music, which he now plays almost exclusively.

Hornsby has been part of many bands and collaborations throughout his career, but he said he’s been working toward going entirely solo for close to 20 years now.

“I guess one could say I decided to go solo in 1995, when I decided to re-dedicate myself to the study of the piano and explore some areas I had never dealt with before,” Hornsby said. “Playing solo is clearly a different mode of expression than playing with a band. It’s way more demanding than the band gigs, but very rewarding if done well.”

Solo Concerts is a live album, the third released by Hornsby. He also released two live albums as part of Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers: Here Come the Noisemakers in 2004 and a sequel, Bride of the Noisemakers, in 2011.

“The process is, for me, moderately painstaking because I dutifully listen to many, many show recordings to find the best performances,” Hornsby said. He said the recordings on Solo Concerts were taken from concerts in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“It’s a very educational process, because along the way I learn very well the sound of me being terrible and the sound of me doing it better,” he said.

Hornsby has played many genres throughout his career, but he described his current sound as 20th and 21st century classical influences combined with traditional American musical forms like blues, boogie, stride, folk, the hymnal, New Orleans piano and more.

Some of his biggest influences include Leon Russell, Keith Jarrett, Randy Newman, Charles Ives, Elliott Carter and Elton John, with whom Hornsby performed at Madison Square Garden.

“There have been so many memorable collaborations throughout the years … [such as] singing my song ‘Lost Soul’ with Elton at Madison Square Garden and sitting in with him on ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ another night at MSG, when we played two pianos and ended the song lying on the floor playing.”

Hornsby also said he was proud of his collaboration with Eric Clapton. They appeared together on the Jay Leno show in 2009 when Hornsby was promoting his new album, Levitate, on which Clapton played.

Though he’s collaborated with many legendary musicians, Hornsby said he’s looking forward to this solo tour because it will allow him to reconnect with his fans.

“I’m looking forward to connecting with new and old interested listeners, to take them on a mirth-filled evening of musical adventure and songs old and new from my catalogue,” Hornsby said.

He’s also excited to return to Dayton after three years.

“Even though Thad Matta is a friend of mine and I was rooting for the Ohio State University,” Hornsby said, “here’s to the Flyers of Dayton for their great NCAA tournament run!”

Bruce Hornsby will perform at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. in Dayton, as part of his An Evening with Bruce Hornsby tour on Saturday, Oct. 18. Tickets range from $29.50 to $59.50 and include a copy of his most recent album, Solo Concerts. To purchase tickets, call 937.228.3630. For more information, please visit brucehornsby.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Page Katie Christoff at Page KatieChristoff@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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