One of the most incredible pianists I've ever heard.
a pianist and composer of extraordinary talent and unusual ideas. This, coupled with a brilliant technique, makes his every performance a musical gem.
the single most under-rated and ridiculously talented US jazz musician of his generation
Kurt's collaborator since 1995, pianist/composer/arranger Laurence Hobgood has enjoyed a multi-faceted and dynamic career. His first "school for jazz" was the storied and vibrant University of Illinois music scene of the early 1980's; mentors included composer and audio synthesis pioneer Salvatore Martirano, classical piano teacher and phenomenon Ian Hobson, and longtime patriarch of the university jazz bands John Garvey. Frequent interaction/collaboration between the jazz and composition "camps" resulted in a unique environment that fostered a total picture of modern music.
After moving to Chicago in 1988 he quickly became an active member of that thriving scene. Leading his own quintet to critical acclaim, forming close musical ties with local phenoms like drummer Paul Wertico and saxophonist Ed Peterson, gaining invaluable experience in the recording studio and continuing his compositional explorations helped prepare him for his destined encounter with a charismatic and brilliant young singer.
Hobgood was awarded three consecutive fellowships (‘90, ‘91 and ‘92) to perform in the Aspen Music Festival where he played with many great artists including Gary Burton, Clark Terry, Claudio Roditi and Bob Mintzer.
And then in 1993 he met Kurt Elling. The young singer "sat in" (against all precedent) with the Ed Peterson Quintet on their weekly essay at virtuosic jazz insanity; the group, which played every Monday at the storied Green Mill in Chicago's Uptown, was known for it's "beyond difficult" repertoire and completely open and experimental approach. Hobgood had been a member of the band for some time at that point; when it was announced that a singer was going to sit in (nobody ever "sat in") genuine surprise and some instinctive trepidation were quickly replaced by relief, then respect.
The growing friendship soon evolved into the start of a true collaboration. In 1994 Hobgood helped Elling produce what became 1995's "Close Your Eyes", the first of six records for the iconic Blue Note label, all Grammy-nominated. The Chicago Tribune honored them as 1995 Chicagoans Of The Year in the Arts. And in 2001 Hobgood received his own Grammy nomination for his arranging on "Flirting With Twilight".
He has performed both with Elling and with his own trio at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Birdland, Chicago's Symphony Center, Ravinia, as well as the world's most prestigious jazz festivals, including Montreaux, North Sea, Monterey, Spoleto USA, Newport, Umbria, Montreal, JVC Festivals in Paris and Japan and many others.
He has played and/or recorded with Jon Hendricks, Larry Coryell, Lee Konitz, Stefon Harris, Peter Erskine, Marc Johnson, Joe Lovano, Benny Maupin, Paul Wertico, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Ernie Watts, Clark Terry, Bobby Watson, Mark Murphy, Clark Terry, Bob Mintzer, Von Freeman, Paul McCandless, Buddy Guy, Gary Burton and Eddie Daniels, to name a few.
In 2003 he received a Deems Taylor award, given by ASCAP for the year's outstanding music journalism, for his article "The Art Of The Trio", published by JazzTimes magazine.
His new CD, "When The Heart Dances", a duet recording with iconic bassist Charlie Haden, will see its U.S. release in late summer 2009. It's already been released in the U.K. and has received a slew of 4-star reviews, most notably from the Independent and the Guardian.
And Elling's new Concord offering, "Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman", to be released June 23rd (2009) in the U.S., features Hobgood's string quartet arrangements in a dynamic live performance from Lincoln Center.
A long time Chicago native, Hobgood has lived in New York since 2006.