NEPA Scene Staff

Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers play at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Sept. 9

Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers play at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Sept. 9
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From a press release:

Almost three decades after winning a Grammy for “Best New Artist” and launching one of contemporary music’s most diverse careers, Bruce Hornsby still makes joyful noise as he discovers clever and expansive ways to chronicle dynamic musical snapshots of his often generously collaborative journey.

The Virginia-born pianist and composer will be performing with his longtime band, the Noisemakers, at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Friday, Sept. 9 at 8 p.m.

Tickets, which range from $37 to $42, are on sale now at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Penn’s Peak box office (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe), and Roadies Restaurant and Bar (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe). Penn’s Peak box office and Roadies Restaurant ticket sales are walk-up only; no phone orders.

“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,” Hornsby says. “The idea always is, ‘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.”

Times and band members change, and Hornsby knows it. Yet for all his forward thinking, he remembers the past.

“As the years go by and my music evolves, I’ve been increasingly interested in hearing some new sounds in my band,” he says. “As I get older, I’ve become more of a folkie than a jazzer, and I’ve felt the need to move the music accordingly.”

For all his talents as a singer, bandleader, and pianist with an instantly identifiable sound, Hornsby is a songwriter at heart committed to portraying his songs in changing ways that allow them to expand organically. This approach was further developed by Hornsby’s time with the Grateful Dead when he joined the legendary band between 1990-1995 for over 100 shows. In the Dead’s vibrant tradition of loosely blending improvised folk and blues, Hornsby found a shared musical aesthetic.

In recent years, he has pushed his artistic limits, working with bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, The Bruce Hornsby Trio, and jazz legend Charlie Haden. Hornsby has also scored a number of projects for filmmaker Spike Lee, including the documentary “Kobe Doin’ Work” (2009), “Red Hook Summer” (2012), and “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” (2014). Hornsby has contributed to all-star collections that pay tributes to Fats Domino, The Band, and Jackson Browne. A music graduate of University of Miami, Hornsby also has partnered with its 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 many traditions that form the foundations 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 only too well how playing the same thing the same way night after night can become a dismal prison.”

His three Grammy wins typify the diversity of his first decade of recording: “Best New Artist” as leader of Bruce Hornsby & 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 commercial successes and creative achievements of Hornsby’s superstar collaborations – including many sampled passages chosen by hip-hop artists – verify Hornsby’s fusion of wide appeal and musical adventure. His albums have sold over 11 million copies worldwide. 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” won “Beyond Album of the Year” in the 1994 Downbeat Reader’s Poll, a citation given to music from any genre apart from jazz or blues. The late Tupac Shakur, working with Hornsby, fashioned a new song over “The Way It Is” adding new lyrics and calling the result “Changes.” The track was an international hit and sold 14 million copies.

Over the years, Hornsby has played on over a hundred records, including albums by Bob Dylan; Don Henley; the Grateful Dead; Bob Seger; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Stevie Nicks; Cowboy Junkies; Squeeze; Chaka Khan; Liquid Jesus; Bonnie Raitt; Chris Whitley; Shawn Colvin; Bela Fleck; Clint Black; Del McCoury; Ricky Skaggs; Randy Scruggs; and Willie Nelson. Hornsby also contributed end-title songs for the Spike Lee films “Clockers” and “Bamboozled.”

Hornsby has participated in many memorable events: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1995 opening concert, Farm Aid IV and VI, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival, Bonnaroo, and Woodstock II and III. 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, and the 1997 World Series Game 5. His work appears on the soundtrack to Ken Burns’ “Baseball.”

“I can be a slow learner,” Hornsby says, “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. That’s where the improvisatory mindset has led us.”

It is a singularly rich place, a place for stirring noise-making.