Words by Corinne Casella | Photo by Kat Fisher

As part of the fourth annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival, NJPAC’s Victoria Theater hosted an intimate evening of music and conversation with Grammy winners Bruce Hornsby and Christian McBride. In tune with McBride’s One on One series, the intimate event featured only a piano, a stand-up bass and set of chairs. However, what transpired was anything but simple. Seeing McBride’s deft hands upon the bass and Hornsby’s magic on the keys would have been worth the price of admission alone. Yet their comfortable banter on everything from sports trivia to time spent with The Grateful Dead lent a layered aspect that made the show unforgettable.

The night began with a touching tribute to the namesake of the festival, James Moody. Todd Coolman, a member of The James Moody Quartet, opened the show discussing Moody’s legacy in ‘passing the torch to the next generation’. He presented Moody’s widow Linda with a check for $5,000 for the Moody Scholarship fund. The scholarship was founded in 2005 at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College-State University of New York, where Coolman is a professor Music and Director of the Jazz Studies Program.

Hornsby, a self-dubbed life-long student, offered up a curated set-list inspired by a range of artists including Schubert, Elliott Carter and Bill Evans. From classical, to musical theater to polyrthymic jazz, the diversity led both musicians into new modes of expression. The result was a captivating fury of chords intuitively followed by McBride, like notes chasing each other across the page.

Interspersed among the duet’s musical banter was a conversation between friends and colleagues. Holding a rhythm all its own, Hornsby’s stories prompted by McBride, gave the audience a look at the business of music from an insider’s point of view. Discussion ranged from the highs and lows of fame, what it takes to become the best and all the memories formed along the way.


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