Laurence Hobgood, a jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, spoke with BYU-Idaho Radio recently about his career in music.
Hobgood was trained classically as a child. However, he was a teenager when he heard the pianist at his local church playing blues for the first time and fell in love with a new type of music.
He said it’s the creativity and individual expression of jazz music that attracted him to the field and is what keeps him inspired today.
“To me the central power of jazz is the phenomenon of individual human achievement,” Hobgood said.
Contrasting it with other styles of music that he called highly computerized and very structured, Hobgood said jazz requires a great deal of musical and artistic ability.
“When you go to listen to jazz, a saxophone player or trumpet player or piano player, they actually have to have worked up the ability to play all of that stuff and be able to think with the other players on the stage,” he said. “It’s all human, and I think that’s a big part of the draw of the music.”
Most recently, Hobgood released “Tesseterra,” which he wrote for his trio and string quartet and which was released in April of this year. He called it a collection of familiar and “iconic” songs.
He’s also just finished working on an album, “Changes,” with jazz singer Arianna Neikrug, who he called “the most well-informed singer he’s ever worked with.”
Hobgood has worked most extensively with long-time partner Kurt Elling. The pair collaborated on many projects from 1995 to 2013 before splitting up abruptly, each pursuing their music interests individually.
In discussing how he’s seen the music industry change in his years working, Hobgood said he’s seen a dramatic shift in how people consume music.
“Now what you have is an entire couple of generations of people that just think music is supposed to be free,” he said. “If the music profession becomes something that it’s no longer possible to earn a living in—except for people that really hit it big, which is a needle in a haystack proposition—then eventually there won’t be any reason for people to study music as anything beyond an avocation.”
He said his favorite parts of being a musician have been connecting with other artists, hearing music that he’s created come to life, and having an emotional impact on audiences.
“There is nothing like hearing something you’ve conceived…you get to hear this thing that so far has just existed in your mind,” Hobgood said. “That’s incredibly satisfying.”