Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Derrick Hodge is a Grammy-winning composer and bassist who is equally adept on both electric and upright instruments. While best known as a member of the Robert Glasper Experiment, he is an accomplished session musician who has worked extensively across jazz, hip-hop, cinematic, and R&B genres. On his self-produced album, The Second, he plays every instrument & merges the many facets of himself into one. Derrick Hodge is currently supporting Maxwell as Music Director for his 2016-17 world tour.
Audio Mixer: Qmillion.
Recording information: Brooklyn Recording Studio, Brooklyn, NY; SOK Creative Studio, Denver, CO; The Parlor Recording Studio, New Orleans, LA.
Photographer: Chris Baldwin.
Derrick Hodge has been busy since releasing Live Today, his debut solo offering, in 2013. As a member of the Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 followed his record by two months, and that band toured for more than a year. Hodge also co-produced Otis Brown III's The Thought of You, played an integral part in Glasper's reimagining of Miles Davis on Everything's Beautiful, and resumed his role as musical director for Maxwell.
The Second builds on the genre-blurring foundation Hodge laid on Live Today, but contrasts with it as well. His attraction to cinematic soundscapes remains evident but there's a deeper focus on delivering more immediate melodies here. He has chosen -- for the most part -- to keep his own counsel here, and he plays all instruments on nine of these 12 tracks. The title track (and first single) is one of three to feature Mark Colenburg on drums. The snare, hi-hat, and cymbal grooves frame a bittersweet melody with a gospel vibe alternately articulated by electric bass, guitar, and acoustic piano. A synth backdrop assumes personas of horns and strings. Syncopated breaks and a B-3 wind around the guitar solo in the bridge. "Song 3" is a lovely ballad. Scored for bass, piano, drums, and ambient atmospherics, the melody is delivered via a treated bassline and rhythm tracks in waltz time punctuated by flute fills, as backmasked production effects add layers of texture. "World Go Round" is a dexterous bass jam that weaves jazz, country, and funk atop fingersnaps and hand percussion. "Underground Rhapsody" places Colenburg's snare breaks alongside bluesy guitar fills, a pulsing keyboard vamp, and a rumbling bassline, all appended by harp samples. It recalls the Glasper band's swelling live jams. "Clock Strikes Zero" weds vintage Kraftwerk-esque electro to contemporary jazz with layers of echo surrounding the distorted bassline. The horn section of trumpeter Keyon Harrold, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, and trombonist Corey King -- who all appeared on Live Today -- return on "For Generations," the only straight-up jazz tune. Its slow stroll weds progressive swing and New Orleans R&B. Hodge employs his electric and upright basses, providing exceptional harmonics and rhythmic extension. "Going" is a slinky groover with synths and harpsichord set against a breezy, smooth, jazz-funk chart highlighted by Colenburg's taut breaks and Hodge's fluid, sexy bass. "From Me to You" is a sparsely adorned folk-jazz ballad with Celtic overtones. Acoustic piano, ambient sounds, and string effects support his gentle tenor vocal in delivering the tender lyric. On The Second, Hodge's disciplined arrangements make convincing use of all the instruments he plays, creating a smooth flow throughout. His compositions are no less ambitious, even if they are more readily accessible. This album is a more holistic endeavor and, while a tad more laid-back, is utterly lovely in conception, production, and execution. ~ Thom Jurek