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).