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Wait For It... Here Comes Mr. Hobgood

By Published: March 13, 2004
Hobgood acknowledges it hasn't always been perfect, "but we're both people that believe in communication. It hasn't always been a heavenly marriage. With two strong personalities like that, inevitably, you're going to have to feel each other out and figure out where each other's lines that you can cross and can't cross are. And really develop your roles. If there's enough of the right intent and the right loving attitude toward really wanting this thing to work ... it's like any relationship: if you really want it to work then you find ways to make it work.

"It took us a few years. There were times when we were angry at each other and stuff like that. Usually over kind of silly stuff, really, I guess. But we've been on cruise control ever since. This Time It's Love, the third record. Even before that. We really have an amazing amount of mutual respect."

Jazz is the sound of surprise and these two great artists astound each other, as well as audiences around the world.

"He continues to surprise me. I think I continue to surprise him. Because we're both really dedicated to developing not only the whole thing, but our individual abilities ... Yeah, I just heard him sing some new stuff last week that I hadn't heard him do before, at the Green Mill. And I'm sitting there going, 'Yeah, man! Right on!'"

As great as the relationship and the work is, it might take more independent work to bring more public attention to this piano virtuoso. Hobgood said he is working on other projects—like his Union trio—and hopes he can get things moving as successfully as his partnership with Elling. But it isn't easy.

"I hope, at some point, to get a conventional record deal of my own. I'd like to make my own records. I don't want that to ever take me away from working with Kurt. There's no reason why it'd have to, when you can do both."

He said Blue Note was close to signing him, but so far it hasn't materialized. "One time, it was like a lock, I thought, but it always fell through," he said. With the jazz record industry hurting—indeed all types of CD sales are having problems—Hobgood's aware it may take a while. "I'm not chomping at the bit, let's put it that way. Everything is timing, you know?"

Being even-tempered and thoughtful, Hobgood is comfortable and willing to be patient. He's even philosophical.

"At the end of any century, there's a kind of summing up time, where there's a collective social statement that says: This is who we are. And it's based on who we've been. And I feel that's been very true in jazz the last 10 years or so," he said. "You get half a decade or so into the new century, which in this case is also the new millennium, and all of a sudden that statement becomes a question. Because everything is cyclical. Instead of saying: This is who we are, we end up getting back to saying: Who the hell are we?

"It may sound naively optimistic, but I think we have very interesting times coming up and I think that people are gonna swing back to being interested in a music that has a little more depth and a little bit more risk. Things have been pretty conservative and staid for a while. I think it's inevitable that that's going to come around and that more adventurous music is going to be able to have a place again."

Naive? Doubtful. And if good taste ever does come back in vogue, look for Hobgood. His time is indeed coming.

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