Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” first recorded by country singer Glen Campbell in 1968, has gradually become a bona fide jazz standard. Its melody and chord changes are among the most beautiful in music of any genre, and in the most skilled hands—think Cassandra Wilson’s 2002 version or the one in 2013 from John Hollenbeck’s big band—it constitutes art at its most devastating. Now comes pianist Laurence Hobgood, who takes up the first 12 minutes of his new album with an achingly gorgeous rendition that blends his trio with a string quartet.
This version—like the rest of Tesseterra—requires great patience. The album’s 67 minutes contain only seven songs. Listening to it is an immersive experience; it’s music for sitting quietly with the lights off, not for commuting in stop-and-go traffic. Songs take time to develop; themes spend many minutes revealing themselves. The strings introduce “Wichita Lineman” alone, in a modern minimalist manner that suggests Arvo Pärt. Three minutes in, Hobgood lays down the familiar theme, and bassist Matthew Clohesy and drummer Jared Schonig join with the strings to create a lovely backdrop for Hobgood’s balladry.