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Bruce Hornsby | Absolute Zero

The restless artist and VIP pals push his music further than he has in years.

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For Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is hasn’t been the way it is for a long time. In the three decades since he fluked his way onto the pop charts with that warmly melodic single, the singer-pianist has expanded the boundaries of his music exponentially — he’s toured with The Grateful Dead, played jazz with Marian McPartland, made bluegrass with Ricky Skaggs, even written music for Spike Lee films. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), his umpteenth release Absolute Zero started off with leftovers from the latter. But Hornsby hasn’t just expanded some of his short cinematic pieces into full-fledged songs — he’s turned them into one of his most experimental and expansive releases, balancing cerebral intricacy with emotional honesty over the course of 10 wide-ranging tracks. Tackling topics from Fractals and Echolocation to White Noise, Voyageur One and the titular temperature, these cuts creatively mix, match and meld sounds and styles, flowing between avant-garde classical stylings to jazz, prog-rock, orchestral chamber-pop and more. A VIP lineup that includes Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, New York’s yMusic ensemble, veteran jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette, guitarist Blake Mills and Dead lyricist Robert Hunter join Hornsby in his explorations, helping the restless artist push his music further than he has in years. That’s just the way it is.