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Out of Space 2019: Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers w/ Suzanne Vega

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Canal Shores Golf Course

1030 Central Street

Evanston, IL 60201

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OUT OF SPACE 2019: BRUCE HORNSBY

& THE NOISEMAKERS w/ SUZANNE VEGA

presented by SPACE at Canal Shores Golf Course

Tickets go on-sale to the general public Fri, Apr 12, at 10am CST.


ABOUT THE SHOW

GATES: 5pm | SUZANNE VEGA: 6:30pm | BRUCE HORNSBY: 8pm

Canal Shores is located at 1030 Central Street in Evanston, IL.

Please click HERE for a detailed FAQ.


ABOUT THE ARTIST

BRUCE HORNSBY: Bruce Hornsby, the creatively insatiable pianist and singer-songwriter from Williamsburg, Virginia, always has succeeded on his exceptional gifts, his training, and his work ethic. He became a global name in music by reimagining American roots forms as songs that moved with the atmospheric grace of jazz. “The Way It Is” defined sonic joy on the radio, however as a hit record it also evidenced a thrilling re-structuring, and during the years afterward Hornsby, in staggeringly diverse ways, has kept going.

He has returned to traditional American roots forms, collaborating with Ricky Skaggs. He has played with the Grateful Dead. He has fused the plunk and dazzle of twentieth-century modernist classical composition to singer-songwriter emotional inquiries. He has scored films. He has performed with symphony orchestras. If the sound of an arrogant air-conditioner or a stretch of rude playing caught his ear, he has entered the hallowed doors of the conservatories of punk. So when Hornsby describes Absolute Zero, his new album, as “a compendium of what I like and moves me,” don’t expect perhaps a thing or two new. Prepare for a multi- faceted ride.

A few years ago, Hornsby met Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. “I kept getting these Google Alerts where he shouted me out in the press,” Hornsby says. In time, other musicians praised Hornsby’s work -- including Brandon Flowers, who asked him to play on his solo album. In the indie-rock zeitgeist, Bruce Hornsby became a thing.

After Hornsby began working with Vernon, the Wisconsinite invited Hornsby to perform at his Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival. “I’d played a thousand-and- one festivals over the years,” Hornsby says. “This one was by far the most beautiful experience for me. They had a modern classical stage where you could hear Frederic Rzewski pieces. Everything was artful and beautiful, so great.”

Before Hornsby played, The Staves and yMusic appeared. “So I’m listening to this British female vocal trio and Brooklyn chamber music group, going ‘Whoa, who is this?”” Hornsby says. “I loved the women, the chamber music group, the whole thing. What they were doing together was adventurous, a different sound.”

Hornsby’s discoveries that evening ultimately circled back to Williamsburg, where over the last years he has hosted his own festival. After Eaux Claires, Hornsby invited yMusic and The Staves to appear at the Williamsburg event. “That’s when I met them,” he says. “We hit it off and became friends. I asked them to play on what became Absolute Zero. We did a session with yMusic in New York. We worked on six pieces; five ended up on the record. It just went from there. Music’s leader Rob Moose started doing some things on his own on some new songs that I would write. Rob arranging on his own – where he puts down twenty different string parts (‘Give me another one! OK, there’s that. Another track! Another track!’) – is quite something to see, working his magic in the studio.”
The genesis of Absolute Zero, however, began within Hornsby’s work as a film composer for writer-director Spike Lee. Hornsby started collaborating with Lee in 1992; ultimately, in 2008, he began scoring for Lee. Since then Hornsby has written six full film scores and contributed incidental music to four others. What began to intrigue him were scoring components known as “cues,” those comparatively brief passages of music used in films to heighten certain narrative visuals and/or spoken developments.

“Over the past decade I’ve written fully 230 different cues,” Hornsby says, “ranging from one to five minutes in length. Through the last ten years of doing this there always were certain cues that sounded like they wanted to be songs, wanted to be developed into something more than just cues, more than just tiny instrumentals setting moods for conversations in a film over dinner, or whatever.” He asked his engineer to make a file of fourteen. Hornsby began working with these Lee cues -- lengthening or shortening or repeating them. “You sculpt and shape the music accordingly,” Hornsby says, “ based on the new information you’ve created over top of these cues.”

Then there was the creation of the songs’ lyrics. “For many years, “Hornsby says, “I’ve been interested in literary fiction.” Even in 2019, when literary fiction exists alongside other types of novels and stories, it remains an extensively chronicled and robustly debated kind of writing. Although it was published centuries before rock and roll exploded, literary fiction shares certain values – constant critical scrutiny, for example, as well as absolute freedom on the part of practitioners, even when that sometimes yields some mighty uneasy reading -- with indie-rock. Literary fiction can show up on best-seller lists, just like indie-rock occasionally storms charts.

“Like many readers do,” Hornsby says, “I’d dog-ear a page or mark something I thought was well-said, some amazing description of a thimble, say. So I began to think about what for me were the most memorable passages I’d encountered from my reading, the good bits from two writers admire greatly, Don DeLillo and the late David Foster Wallace. On this record, those are my two literary inspirations and guides, Don and Dave.” Hornsby’s songs, both in spirit and memory, function collectively as an hommage to fiction writing that, while often poetic, takes no prisoners.

Ready for the results? Those would be pieces like the opening title track -- which features drumming by the legendary Jack DeJohnette -- inspired by DeLillo’s Zero K, a book Hornsby describes as about “the cryonic field – or, most baldly put, Ted Williams freezing in a vault somewhere outside Phoenix.” Or “Fractals,” wherein Hornsby compares a relationship with that “rough and fragmented geometrical shape,” as he puts it, “that can be subdivided into parts.” Or “Echolocation,” a stylistic cousin of “Fractals,” that Hornsby calls “one of my musical combines.” He’s remembering the American artist and pop art instigator Robert Rauschenberg, who during the 1950s made famous hybrids of tactile painting and sculpture, where almost anything, assembled just so rightly, goes.

“That aspect of found materials,” Hornsby says, “collages: That’s exactly what my new album is on a musical level. You go into my studio and there’s just crap everywhere – a vibraslap here, a train whistle there, a crappy old violin I’m playing badly. And then there’s my brother playing some dog-shitty violin that’s vibey as hell.”

Hornsby produced Absolute Zero, his pastiche of sounds” as it calls the album, with assists from Tony Berg, Vernon, and Brad Cook. Some songs, like “Never in This House,” expose traditional Hornsby songwriting semi-nakedly; others, like “Voyager One” – “sort of chamber art-pop meets Prince,” Hornsby says – and “The Blinding Light of Dreams” – with a groove that Hornsby points out dates back to “Serpentine Fire” by Earth, Wind & Fire – re-stage U.S. r&b as fluidly as the music elsewhere refers to an American modernist composer like Elliott Carter. “Meds,” for example, a particular tour de force of Hornsby/Moose featuring special guitar by Blake Mills, blossoms into gripping ‘60s soul choruses. “Cast Off” manages to animate a rare style – miserablist polyrhythms – without skimping on the funk itself.

“White Noise” Hornsby considers “the Wallace moment.” It offers a passionate singer with a string quartet backing him. “The narrative comes from Wallace’s The Pale King,” Hornsby says, “a novel about boredom, about IRS tax examiners as unlikely yet convincing American heroes.” And then “Take You There (Misty),” written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, concludes the sequence with romanticism as re-ordered by Hornsby via memories of Steve Reich’s and Philip Glass’s sonically floral minimalism.

A ride. There is precedent for musical artists moving from the mainstream of popular music to...somewhere else: Ohio-born Scott Walker, ruling the airwaves with The Walker Brothers in early-‘60s Britain, then concocting uniquely dark- toned symphonic solo albums followed by uncharted lands of vocal compositions even much bleaker. David Byrne, determined that the late-70s downtown Manhattan freedom of Talking Heads expand to include pop styles all over the known universe. Robbie Williams, absolutely dead-set on not letting his ‘90s boy- band years preclude pop and rock and swing styles done with uncommon erudition.

This stripe of music evolution over time clearly has another member to add to its small and restless club. It’s Bruce Hornsby, a great restructuralist from the beginning and onward. Absolute Zero constitutes absolute 2019 proof. And all you need to hear it is a set of open ears.

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SUZANNE VEGA: Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation, Suzanne Vega emerged as a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s when, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, she sang what has been labeled contemporary folk or neo-folk songs of her own creation in Greenwich Village clubs. Since the release of her self-titled, critically acclaimed 1985 debut album, she has given sold-out concerts in many of the world's best-known halls. In performances devoid of outward drama that nevertheless convey deep emotion, Vega sings in a distinctive, clear vibrato-less voice that has been described as "a cool, dry sandpaper- brushed near-whisper" and as "plaintive but disarmingly powerful."

Bearing the stamp of a masterful storyteller who "observed the world with a clinically poetic eye," Suzanne's songs have always tended to focus on city life, ordinary people and real world subjects. Notably succinct and understated, often cerebral but also streetwise, her lyrics invite multiple interpretations. In short, Suzanne Vega's work is immediately recognizable, as utterly distinct and thoughtful, and as creative and musical now, as it was when her voice was first heard on the radio over 20 years ago.

Suzanne was born in Santa Monica, CA, but grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side of New York City. She was influenced by her mother, a computer systems analyst and her stepfather, the Puerto Rican writer Egardo Vega Yunque. There was a heady mix of multicultural music playing at home: Motown, bossa nova, jazz and folk. At age 11 she picked up a guitar and as a teenager she started to write songs.

Suzanne studied dance at the High School for the Performing Arts and later attended Barnard College where she majored in English Literature. It was in 1979 when Suzanne attended a concert by Lou Reed and began to find her true artistic voice and distinctive vision for contemporary folk. Receptionist by day, Suzanne was hanging out at the Greenwich Village Songwriter's Exchange by night. Soon she was playing iconic venues like The Bottom Line and Folk City. The word was out and audiences were catching on.

At first, record companies saw little prospect of commercial success. Suzanne's demo tape was rejected by every major record company -- and twice by the very label that eventually signed her: A&M Records. Her self-titled debut album was finally released in 1985, co-produced by Steve Addabbo and Lenny Kaye, the former guitarist for Patti Smith. The skeptical executives at A&M were expecting to sell 30,000 LPs. 1,000,000 records later, it was clear that Suzanne's voice was resonating around the world. "Marlene on the Wall" was a surprise hit in the U.K and Rolling Stone eventually included the record in their "100 Greatest Recordings of the 1980s." 1987's follow up, Solitude Standing, again co-produced by Addabbo and Kaye, elevated her to star status. The album hit #2 in the UK and #11 in the States, was nominated for three Grammys including Record of the Year, and went platinum. "Luka" is a song that has entered the cultural vernacular; certainly the only hit song ever written from the perspective of an abused boy.

The opening song on Solitude Standing was a strange little a cappella piece, "Tom's Diner" about a non-descript restaurant near Columbia University uptown. Without Suzanne's permission, it was remixed by U.K. electronic dance duo DNA and bootlegged as "Oh Susanne." Suddenly her voice on this obscure tune was showing up in the most unlikely setting of all: the club. Suzanne permitted an official release of the remix of "Tom's Diner" under its original title, which reached #5 on the Billboard pop chart and went gold. In 1991 a compilation, Tom's Album, brought together the remix and other unsolicited versions of the song. Meanwhile, Karlheinz Brandenburg, the German computer programmer, was busy developing the technology that would come to be known as the MP3. He found that Vega's voice was the perfect template with which to test the purity of the audio compression that he was aiming to perfect. Thus Suzanne earned the nickname "The Mother of the MP3."

Suzanne co-produced the follow-up album with Anton Sanko, 1990's Days Of Open Hand, which won a Grammy for Best Album Package. The album also featured a string arrangement by minimalist composer Philip Glass. Years earlier she had penned lyrics for his song cycle "Songs From Liquid Days." Continuing to battle preconceptions, she teamed with producer Mitchell Froom for 1992's 99.9F. The album's sound instigated descriptions such as "industrial folk" and "technofolk." Certified gold, 99.9F won a New York Music Award as Best Rock Album. Suzanne's neo-folk style has ushered in a new female, acoustic, folk-pop singer-songwriter movement that would include the likes of Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, and Indigo Girls. In 1997, Suzanne joined Sarah McLachlan on her Lilith Fair tour, which celebrated the female voice in rock and pop. She was one of the few artists invited back every year. Suzanne was also the host of the public radio series "American Mavericks," thirteen hour-long programs featuring the histories and the music of the iconoclastic, contemporary classical composers who revolutionized the possibilities of new music. The show won the Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting.

In 1996, Vega returned with the similarly audacious Nine Objects Of Desire, also produced by Mitchell Froom, who by then was her husband. "Woman On The Tier (I'll See You Through)" was released on the "Dead Man Walking" soundtrack. Over the years, she has also been heard on the soundtracks to "Pretty In Pink" ("Left Of Center" with Joe Jackson) and "The Truth About Cats & Dogs," and contributed to such diverse projects as the Disney compilation Stay Awake, Grateful Dead tribute Deadicated, Leonard Cohen tribute Tower Of Song, and Pavarotti & Friends. In 1999, "The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writings Of Suzanne Vega," a volume of poems, lyrics, essays and journalistic pieces, was published by Spike/Avon Books. In 2001, she returned to her acoustic roots for her first new album in five years, the critics' favorite Songs In Red And Gray.

In 2007, Suzanne released Beauty & Crime on Blue Note Records, a deeply personal reflection of her native New York City in the wake of the loss of her brother Tim and the tragedy of 9/11. But the record is not a sad one, per se, as her love for the city shines through as both its subject and its setting. In it, Suzanne mixes the past and present, the public with the private, and familiar sounds with the utterly new, just like the city itself. "Anniversary," which concludes Beauty & Crime, is an understated evocation of that time in the fall of 2002, when New Yorkers first commemorated the Twin Towers tragedy and when Suzanne recalls her brother's passing. It's more inspiration than elegy, though: "Make time for all your possibilities," Vega sings at the end in that beautiful, hushed voice. "They live on every street." Produced by the Scotsman, Jimmy Hogarth and featuring songs such as "New York is a Woman" and "Ludlow Street," Beauty & Crime is that rare album by an artist in her third decade; an album that is as original and startling as her first. Beauty & Crime won a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

In 2006, she became the first major recording artist to perform live in avatar form within the virtual world Second Life. She has dedicated much of her time and energy to charitable causes, notably Amnesty International, Casa Alianza, and the Save Darfur Coalition. Suzanne has a daughter, Ruby, by first husband Mitchell Froom. Ruby, like Suzanne before her, attends the High School for the Performing Arts. Suzanne is married to lawyer/poet Paul Mills, who proposed to her originally in 1983. Suzanne accepted his proposal on Christmas Day 2005, twenty-two years later.

Suzanne Vega is an artist that continues to surprise. In 2011 in New York City she premiered "Carson McCullers Talks About Love," an original play written and performed by Ms. Vega with songs she wrote with Tony Award-winner Duncan Sheik ("Spring Awakening"). A pioneer among singer-songwriters. Suzanne has also embarked on a project to re-imagine her own songbook in a stripped down and intimate manner, creating four new thematic albums that will be released over the course of 2010-2012 called the Close-Up series.

Ms. Vega continues to tour constantly, having just played dates with artists as diverse as Moby and Bob Dylan. Suzanne is planning US and European dates this spring and summer.

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