Bruce Hornsby, above at lower right, joins fellow Grammy winner Ricky Skaggs for a Monday night matchup at the Basie, followed on Thursday with a much-anticipated appearance by the Hot Sardines, below.
Picture this: you’re a celebrated, Grammy-winning musician and songwriter whose seemingly effortless mastery has seen him move with past the often artificial barricades of classic rock but your most immediate identifier remains the smash hit single that launched you out of the gate a generation ago. And that, fans, is just “The Way It Is.”
Undaunted, Bruce Hornsby continues to embrace that “elephant in the room” signature song with a “vibrantly expansive” new arrangement that stands as one of the highlights of his current tour — an ambitious itinerary that finds him stepping onto the stage of the Count Basie Theatre tonight in the collaborative company of another multi-faceted music maker, his friend and fellow Grammy getter Ricky Skaggs.
A country music perennial with the expected groaning trophy case of awards and accolades — including 14 Grammys, eight Country Music Awards, two Dove Awards, an induction to the Gospel Hall of fame and no less than three honorary doctorates — Skaggs (pictured left) has long since transcended the flavor-of-the-month pitfalls that have tripped up so many of his onetime peers, working his bluegrass purist roots to become a pivotal figure in the rise of the alt-Nashville Americana genre. Call him “all cattle and no hat” — a master intrumentalist who, with his band, Kentucky Thunder, continues to share his virtuosity and expertise with audiences across the continent’s endless gray ribbon.
For tonight’s 8 p.m. show, Skaggs and company will welcome Hornsby’s distinctive piano and voice into the guitar-fiddle-mandolin-banjo-bass mix, dealing out a set that ranges from re-imaginings of the artists’ respective hits to vintage barnburners like “Cluck Ol’ Hen.” Take it here for still-available tickets ($25 – $79.50) — then take it back to the Basie this Thursday, March 2, when the Hot Sardines roll into Red Bank for a concert that was rescheduled from September 2016.
Led by pianist Evan “Bibs” Palazzo and fronted by torchy Parisian vocalist Elizabeth Bougerol, the Sardines emerged seemingly from out of nowhere (well, okay, from the last Q train stop in Queens) to become sought-after fixtures at some of the outer boroughs’ best-kept-secret hipster haunts; graduating in short order to regular gigs at Joe’s Pub/ Lincoln Center and, with their current road jaunt, the kind of theater-scale venues that bring them to the Basie for an 8 p.m. show. Evoking “wartime Paris via New Orleans” with a sound that channels Satchmo (Armstrong), Django (Reinhardt) and Fats (Waller) via stride piano, blustery brass and Le Jazz Hot, the band’s exhilarating attack is reinforced by a genuine secret weapon, in the person of tap dancer “Fast Eddy” Francisco.
Take it here for tickets ($25 – $39.50) to the Hot Sardines stand on Thursday — then go here for details on more upcoming musical attractions on the Basie boards, including An Evening of Old Time Doo Wop (March 4), Pat Benatar with Neal Giraldo (March 7), and The Charlie Daniels Band (April 20).