It's no surprise that bassist Derrick Hodge's debut, Live Today, breathes fresh creativity. Whether swinging fervently on upright or laying down nasty funk riffs on electric bass, his versatility has been recruited by trumpet giant Terence Blanchard and served as a vital component of the Robert Glasper Experiment's Grammy-winning Black Radio (Blue Note, 2012). Hodge's talents are not, however, limited to any one musical genre, including work as musical director for R&B singing star Maxwell, and collaborations with rapper/actor Common and the talented neo-soul singer Jill Scott.
Like a mosaic self-portrait, Hodge's project reflects his leadership and a multitude of other talented artists. Things start with "The Real," an infectious Caribbean zouk rhythm mixed with swanky horns and turntable styling from DJ Jahi Sundance. This is contrasted by the title track's uplifting message, with artful spoken word verses delivered by Common, and the addition of the American String Quartet to "Holding Onto You," featuring rising star singer, guitarist and bassist Alan Hampton's emotive voice.
There's even humor in "Table Jawn," where the bass line's lighthearted melody dances over a makeshift rhythm of table beats, spoons, and coffee cups from Glasper and drummer Chris Dave. But there's no mistaking Hodge's importance as a musician and composer in "Message of Hope" and "Solitude." The African-flavored theme of "Message" is driven by Mark Colenburg's strong drums, then propelled by Hodge's scorching, distorted solo. "Solitude" finds Hodge navigating some Jaco Pastorius-like fretless electric bass lines through the ballad's elegiac waters, the tranquil sound of strings and Aaron Parks's meditative piano.
From hip dance club numbers like "Boro March" and old school slow jams such as "Still The One" (with fellow Experiment cohort Casey Benjamin) to childhood memories of church on "Doxology," the music is appealing on multiple levels. Like Glasper and other emerging jazz stars, Hodge isn't overly concerned about converting listeners to a singular art form, instead, with Life Today, he displays his diverse music interests.
Track Listing: The Real; Table Jawn; Message Of Hope; Boro March; Live Today; Dances With Ancestors;
Anthem in 7; Still The One; Holding Onto You; Solitude; Rubberband; Gritty Folk; Doxology (I
Remember); Night Visions.
Personnel: Derrick Hodge: acoustic, electric bass, fretless bass, keyboards, synths, percussion, table
beats, spoons and coffee cups (2); vocals (8); string arrangements (9; 10); Chris Dave: drums,
percussion (1, 5, 6, 10, 11), table beats, spoons & coffee cups (2); James Poyser: keyboards
(1); Travis Sayles: synths (1), Hammond B3 Organ (13); Jahi Sundance: turn tables (1 );
Keyon Harrold: trumpet (1, 12); Marcus Strickland: tenor saxophone (1), soprano sax (6);
Corey King: trombone (1); Robert Glasper: table beats, spoons and coffee cups (2), acoustic
piano, choir pad, Fender Rhodes (5); Mark Colenburg: drums, percussion (3, 4, 7, 12);
Travis Sayles: keyboards, Hammond B3 organ (3, 7); Keyon Harrold: Bb trumpet, Harmon
Mute trumpet, flugelhorns (4, 6); Casey Benjamin: vocoder (8); Alan Hampton: vocals,
acoustic guitar (9); The American String Quartet (9, 10): Martha Caplin (violin), Sophia Kessinger (violin), Sarah Adams (viola), Mark Shuman (cello); James
Poyser: keyboards (11).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.