When Laurence Hobgood tickles the ivories, it transports the listener to a desirable place. It cleanses the mind of any worries, and places the listener in a world where images of serenity are everywhere. His latest recording, When The Heart Dances features Kurt Elling on vocals and Charlie Haden on bass, who each display a sharp perception in supporting Hobgood’s lead.
The nocturnal tidings of "Que Sera Sera" and "First Song" have a bluesy glint in the torchlight glimmers, while Hobgood’s exhilarating piano sprigs in the title track provide episodic patterns busting out of the seams. Hobgood plays with a free spirit and suave mannerism that entices the listener to join in his frolicking jaunts. Haden’s bass solo in "Chickoree" firmly wedges Hobgood’s piano keys, which shift into a lackadaisical plucking along "Stairway To The Stars" as Elling’s vocals penetrate the gently rippling grooves. The music is sedate and courses funnels of lyrical piano keys that tell a story swarming with happiness and sorrow like in "New Orleans." The pensive mood that shrouds "Why Did I Choose You" caresses the listener’s soul with a velvety touch, and the uplifting tilt in Hobgood’s piano keys through "Sanctuary" and "Leatherwood" filament these songs with images of laughter and glee. The repetitive movements in Hobgood’s piano keys through "The Cost Of Living" produce a sullen haze in the melodic patterns as ivory droplets trickle a profusion of soft purrs and the quivering beats move wildly through the intervals, changing the dynamics but also keeping the mood heavy and dark.
If you never thought about playing the piano before, Laurence Hobgood will change your mind. His playing is inspiring, displaying how to channel your thoughts and emotions into the piano keys, forming lyrical and melodic patterns that are portraits of yourself and your surroundings. Similarly to the way a photo or a poem can express human sentiments, so too can Hobgood’s playing. Being both offbeat and classically conventional, Hobgood straddles this line with a keen sense of balance that others strive to achieve.