If the name Laurence Hobgood rings a bell, you must be a Kurt Elling fan. Hobgood has been the Chicago-based vocalist's valued musical associate for more than a decade, and his recording mates on Crazy World, bassist Rob Amster and drummer Frank Parker, regularly comprise Elling's core trio. (The acquired-taste singer slips in with idiosyncratic readings of "More Than You Know" and Fred Hersch's "Endless Stars.")
Bill Evans has profoundly touched Hobgood, as he has thousands of other postwar pianists. But unlike the vast majority of them, Hobgood has absorbed Evans' methods while staying clear of his overt mannerisms. "Prayer for the Enemy," an original Hobgood waltz, conjures up a mood of fraught quietude that Evans perfected in the early '60s, and the Cy Coleman standard "When in Rome" swings like the perkier Evans performances of that fertile era. Elsewhere, the trio establishes a true ensemble voice of its own, with Hobgood drawing inspiration from Parker's sensitive accompaniment and Amster's open-eared interaction and strikingly lyrical soloing. Even if Elling isn't your cup of tea, his loyal trio is certainly worth a good listen.