Home » Jazz Articles » Karriem Riggins: Alone Together

3

Album Review

Karriem Riggins: Alone Together

By

Sign in to view read count
Karriem Riggins: Alone Together
Drummer Karriem Riggins has performed with or arranged for vocalist Betty Carter, pianist Oscar Peterson and bassist Ray Brown; he sat in the drummer's chair on pianist Mulgrew Miller's excellent Live at Yoshi's, Volume One (MAXJAZZ, 2004) and Two (MAXJAZZ, 2005). Hell, he even plays on ex-Beatle bassist-vocalist Paul McCartney's Kisses on the Bottom (Hear Music, 2012). These are pretty high-level mainstream credentials.

But Riggins is a Jekyll-and-Hyde; he's an equally productive hip hop producer, having overseen releases by Common, Erykah Badu, Slum Village, Black Thought, The Roots and others. Stones Throw Records, Riggins's label, offers a freely-available mixtape of his hip hop work. Alone Together, his first solo release, is clearly closer in sound to the hip hop end of Riggins's musical continuum. But it's likely to surprise even those who know the hip hop Riggins.

Alone Together is the aural equivalent of seeing Riggins's record collection through a kaleidoscope: lots of R&B from the 1960s to the present, a smattering of Brazilian and African records, a little jazz. It differs from his records with Badu or Slum Village. Those productions typically sample a whole chorus of a recording, over which a human voice raps or sings. On this record, those same sampled songs are cut up into much smaller, less easily-recognized pieces. It's as though Riggins is attempting a kind of research into the subatomic particles of R&B.

Riggins owes a debt to the late J Dilla, a visionary hip hop producer, and celebrated by jazz pianist Robert Glasper, among others. Alone Together's format is borrowed from Dilla's Donuts (Stones Throw, 2006), which also featured 30-plus short tracks. Riggins even dedicates a track to Dilla, a most un- Dilla-like number with abundant live drumming over a kind of spaghetti-western musical theme. (Presumably, to honor Dilla with a narrow imitation would be to betray his adventurous influence.)

Most of the tracks clock in at less than two minutes. And many tracks in fact contain a couple of even shorter musical sketches joined up. And even at that, some of them seem to go on too long. These are not miniatures in the style of, say, Duke Ellington's "Harlem Air Shaft"; these are instead tiny collages, knit quilt-like into a mosaic. The rhythm is generally propulsive, pushing forward by its nature, but the overall effect of listening to the full album is that of standing before an immobile wall of exquisitely crafted and individually distinct tiles.

That's not at all a bad thing: subatomic R&B research is an eminently good idea, though it might threaten to unleash even more powerful forces than the original subatomic research did. Riggins's record moreover lays bare the truly revolutionary sound art that lies (literally) just below the surface of so many commercial mega-hits.

Track Listing

Intro; Round The Outside; From Detroit/Belle Isle; Moogy Foog It; Oooooooooaaaaaaa; Stadium Rock; Alto Flute; Orbiiz; Up; Forward Motion; Esperanza; Africa; Harpsichord Session; Water; Double Trouble; A7 Mix; Ding Dong Bells; Belle Isle Reprise; daOOOOOH!!; Tom Toms; Because; F_rd Jingle; Boy Is Doin' It Right; Summer Maddness S.A.; Back In Brazil; Live At Bert's; No Way; 6-40; I Need Love; K. Riffins; Voyager I 5000; Bring That Beat Back (Next Time); Matador; J Dilla The Greatest.

Personnel

Karriem Riggins: MPC 3000, MPC 5000, Korg Triton, Spinet harpsichord, Steinway piano, Gretsch drums, Native Instruments Maschine, Moog, Fender Rhodes.

Album information

Title: Alone Together | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Stones Throw Records

Post a comment about this album


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Tags

View events near Los Angeles
Jazz Near Los Angeles
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Local Businesses | More...

More

Popular

Exude
Francesca Han & Ralph Alessi
Baker's Dozen
The Muffins
Blues & Bach: The Music Of John Lewis
Enrico Pieranunzi Trio & Orchestra
The Border
Douwe Eisenga

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.