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  • Laurence Hobgood (2009)

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    Though born in North Carolina, and now resident in New York, pianist Laurence Hobgood has been associated with Chicago for most of his life, having moved to Illinois via Texas as a boy, and attending the University of Illinois, ultimately ending up in Chicago in the late 1980s, and playing with such as drummer Paul Wertigo and guitarist Fareed Haque.

    One night in '93, while Laurence was part of saxophonist Ed Petersen's quintet and performing at Chicago's legendary Green Mill, a young singer asked to sit in. The reaction of almost any jazz group to such a request would be incredulity ("Singer? Sit in??"), all the more so in this case since the group was known for its "beyond difficul" repertoire and experimental approach. But the singer was Kurt Elling, and thereby hangs a tale.

    Laurence became Kurt's musical director, and for 15 years he has been arranging and composing and producing Kurt's music, concerts and recordings. Kurt's talent is such that it was inevitable that he would become world famous: but we have the Kurt we know, as opposed to some other Kurt, precisely because of that now-15-year association (longer than the median duration of US marriages).

    Not content with those musical duties, Laurence is also a published author (winning the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 2003 for his writing on Keith Jarrett's trio) and also, to his own surprise, a one-off cartoonist for "Down Beat" magazine. He doesn't neglect his piano playing, either: the Chicago Tribune has called him "a powerhouse ... with a Herculean technique", and Dave Brubeck has said that Laurence is simply "one of the most incredible pianists I've ever heard." He records for the UK label Naim, his latest being a duo recording with bassist Charlie Haden.

    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Miles Davis Nefertiti Nefertiti (Columbia)
    # 2 Chick Corea Now He Sings, Now He Sobs Windows (Blue Note)
    # 3 Jack DeJohnette   Nine over Reggae Not commercially available
    # 4 Miles Davis Complete Plugged Nickel I Fall in Love Too Easily (Columbia)
    # 5 Michael Brecker Pilgrimage Anagram (Heads Up)
    # 6 John Coltrane A Love Supreme Part I--Acknowledgement (Impulse)
    # 7 Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil Dance Cadaverous (Blue Note)
    Book Bill Bryson, "A Short History of Nearly Everything"
    Luxury Item "My high-end Naim audio equipment"
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