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Laurence Hobgood When the Heart Dances Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Brings Hobgood the recognition he is long overdue.

John Eyles 2009

Pianist Laurence Hobgood is maybe best known as vocalist Kurt Elling's accompanist, musical director and co-producer. As a result of Elling's considerable talent and fame, Hobgood has been largely overshadowed by him. Now, the compelling When the Heart Dances seems likely to bring Hobgood the recognition he is long overdue.

Instead of the trio format of his past Naim albums, Hobgood is paired with double bass legend Charlie Haden. The bassist is in imperious form and it is to Hobgood's credit that he effortlessly matches up. The duo is a pairing of equals, with neither player dominating the lead role.

The album opens with the standout, Que Sera Sera, made famous by Doris Day. Hobgood rarely explicitly states the song's familiar theme. Instead, without bluster, he creates a delicate impressionistic version in which the slowness reveals the beauty of his playing. Haden keeps time but also contributes resounding solo lines.

Music of such rich detail demands to be heard in its full glory. This recording perfectly captures every gesture and nuance of both players, revealing the depth and immediacy of the music.

In contrast to the opener, the title track, one of three fine Hobgood originals, has an engaging theme and a brisk tempo. Piano and bass use it as a launch pad for some exemplary duo improvisation as their melodic lines intertwine effectively.

As on recent Hobgood albums, Elling sings on three tracks, Haden's eloquent First Song, Stairway To The Stars and Ellington's Daydream. Typically, Elling reveals himself as an effective vocal technician rather than an emotive singer. His vocals add variety to the album but distract from the delights of the duo.

On two of his compositions, Sanctuary and Leatherwood, Hobgood plays alone. Without Hadens warm wooden sound, the tracks feel bare. Hobgood sounds exposed and vulnerable but amply demonstrates that he has the talent to command attention alone. Nevertheless, Hobgood and Haden were made for each other.

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