Laurence Hobgood Trio Honor Thy Fathers Circumstantial By Michael J. West
It’s easy to hear similarities between Laurence Hobgood’s piano and that of Brad Mehldau, who shares primary influences (Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans). But Hobgood, known for his years as Kurt Elling’s musical director, differentiates himself via another cluster of inspirations: Oscar Peterson, Nat “King” Cole and his own father, theater director Burnet Mclean. These and other mentors are the focus of his radiant trio record Honor Thy Fathers.
Armed with a top-flight rhythm section—drummer Kendrick Scott and bassist John Patitucci—Hobgood both salutes the aforementioned influences and pulls the music in unexpected directions. “Sanctuary,” an original dedicated to his father, and Cole’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right” pack in serious gospel feeling; the sanctified church even peeks through his Evans pastiche, “The Waltz.” “Give Me the Simple Life,” intended as a nod to Peterson, acknowledges him only with a few runs in the middle of Hobgood’s solo; the remainder is about unorthodox structure and carefully built suspense.
There are definite through lines on Honor Thy Fathers, however. Hobgood likes to work in odd meters without being ostentatious about it; “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” for example, has a bouncing march groove that doesn’t sound like the 7/4 it is, and “The Road Home,” Hobgood’s tribute to Charlie Haden, is so downhome that its rhythm in 5 seems perfectly natural. The other recurring element is lyricism, credit for which goes to Patitucci as well. His lines are not only lyrical but have the dynamics and flexible tone of a human voice, as in both his lead and fecund solo on “Shirakumo No Michi.” The album is a sublime statement—perhaps the first of 2016.