Sunday, September 05, 2010

7939: Jazzy Rap And Hip Hop.

From The New York Times…

Rap and Hip-Hop, Now Accented With Jazz

By Neil Tesser

When fans attend a performance by the Chicago rap stars Common or Kanye West (or, for that matter, the hip-hop princess Beyoncé or the neo-soul crooner Maxwell), they expect certain things: powerful choreography, glitzy peripherals like lights and props and the headliner on video screens in gigantic detail.

What they do not expect is jazz artists backing the stars. But a number of pop performers, including the rapper Timbaland and the singer Bilal, have recently employed them.

“They don’t have to hire jazz musicians,” said Derrick Hodge, 31, who has backed both Common and Mr. West on electric bass, but who made his name in the acoustic trio led by the veteran jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller. “Other players cost less money, and people are going to jump and scream all the same. They hire us because they hear something that relates to who they are.”

Mr. Hodge agreed that rap, with its emphasis on wordplay, does not require such traditional jazz strengths as complex harmony and melodic virtuosity.

Common, who sees jazz players as collaborative sidemen accompanying the main soloist (himself), said, “Jazz musicians’ vocabulary is so extensive they can play anything.”

He gives them the chance to stretch out in performance, but added: “It’s also important for them to play in the pocket — to stay in the zone while I’m rapping and not overplay. And that takes skill.”

Common has worked with jazzmen for more than a decade, reflecting his passion for the music. (This year, he recorded a track for the coming album by Cassandra Wilson.) “I love jazz,” he said. “When I lived in Chicago, I would go to the Jazz Showcase to hear Pharoah Sanders or Ahmad Jamal,” adding that he once saw the trumpeter Roy Hargrove there.

“I wasn’t aware of who he was,” Common said, “but there were all these young musicians my age playing with him. I was amazed.”

Purveyors of pop music have long turned to jazz artists to enhance their music, and jazz musicians have happily accepted the comparative riches of the pop world. In the 1920s, the solos of Bix Beiderbecke, the fabled cornetist, stood out in his performances with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra. More recently, the Rolling Stones have used the Chicago jazz bassist Darryl Jones on tour. The Lt. Dan Band, led by the actor (and bassist) Gary Sinise, comprises Chicago jazz musicians playing rock and blues to benefit American military personnel.

Read the full story here.

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