Ask the average person what they think of when they think of jazz music and you’ll probably hear that the music is for old people, it’s a dying genre, its elevator music or, especially in the UK where BBC sketch show ‘The Fast Show’ ridiculed the genre (or rather followers of the music who preferred the idea of liking jazz to actually liking it), the simple phrase; “nice”.
It’s fair to say that jazz was important, during the times of the civil rights movement jazz became the voice for the oppressed, an outlet for equality and with record labels like Columbia and the legendary Blue Note creating bona-fide musical legends, jazz was everywhere. And, if you know where to look, it still is. Its appeal continues to shine brightly, not so much in record sales but in live music, most cities around the world will have a jazz club. The music continues to excite and attract musicians and music lovers but even with the vast catalogue of jazz tunes in the world there needs to be musicians coming through creating more.
Step up musical prodigies Domi Louna and JD Beck.
I found this duo on a random YouTube wormhole and was blown away by what they were doing. Was there an album? Where could I see more? Who the hell were these people?!
Luckily I wasn’t the only person to get excited by the sound they were creating and Blue Note soon took… well, note, and signed them via American rapper Anderson Paak’s Ape Shit Records. The result is an album of such breadth that the duo manage to spin the plates of jazz, RnB, hip hip, fusion and – as one comment on YouTube declared – trip-hop.
What does this mean? Well, in short this is more of a declaration of intent than a mere collection of songs. It’s dreamy, frantic, nostalgic and will break down some barriers by, hopefully, fuelling the musical muscles of a new generation.
There are guests ranging from hip-hop royalty in Snoop Dogg, Anderson Paak on lead single ‘Take A Chance’ to modern jazz bassist Thundercat to jazz legend Herbie Hancock (who stars on ‘Moon’ and dips into his 1970’s fusion heyday). The whole exercise could have felt like an audio version of Saturday Night Live, sending up their guests and relying on their input to carry the songs but it feels connected, in fact I would have liked more of Domi and JD Beck on their own. The connection between the two feels telepathic at times.
Domi is a powerhouse on keys, watching her play is like watching an octopus, her fingers playing the notes while her feet control the bass on pedals. The dexterity is mind-blowing.
And then there is JD Beck, his drum patterns are intuitive and bang on time (his ‘pocket’ play is metronomic) and easy to forget that he is human and not a pre-programmed drum machine.
I’ll admit that the album didn’t immediately hit home with me, I needed a few listens to find the groove because the music can be overwhelming and tiring but this feels like the beginning of something.
In 1959, Ornette Colman released an album called ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’, it enraged people like Miles Davis, who believed the title alone was an insult, how could someone claim to know the future of a genre? Well, it’s now 2022 and if this is the direction jazz needs to make to attract a new generation, so be it.