Derrick Hodge is a contemporary musical renaissance man. A top-flight bassist known for his core membership in the Robert Glasper Experiment, he is also a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer who has worked with everyone from Common and Terence Blanchard to Maxwell, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Gretchen Parlato. Color of Noize is at once the title of his third album and the name of his band, comprised of pianist/organist Jahari Stampley, keyboardist and synth player Michael Aaberg, drummers Mike Michell and Justin Tyson, and DJ Jahi Sundance on turntables. Hodge plays bass, guitar, keys, and sings. He co-produced the set with Don Was.
Color of Noize is the first time Hodge has worked with an outside producer. Cut live in studio, his musicians encountered the music only when they were about to record it; improvised moments are abundant here. Hodge doesn't meld genres, he blurs them in an exotic, resonant, uplifting music of his own. Groove and flow become multivalent expressions of a single creative voice through instrumental hip-hop, contemporary jazz, indie rock, and soul; they emerge to offer emotional depth and spiritual heft.
"The Cost" opens with sampled, fragmented voices hovering above fretless bass, turntables, reverb, wafting organ, and lithe piano, grooving through the studio haze in a thunderous crescendo with lightning-fast breaks and vamps that bind them. First single "Not Right Now" whispers in with hip-hop beats before Hodge's economical bassline becomes the tune's melodic voice. When the band enters, they embellish and expand the harmonic ideas as he improvises. Hodge plays upright bass arco-style alongside his electric on "You Could Have Stayed," a soulful ballad that simultaneously evokes R&B and sweet Southern gospel. Commencing quietly as a sparse harmonic notion, organ swells and junglist drumming escalate the tempo as declamatory synths create a maelstrom for furious bass soloing. Second single "Heartbeats" seemingly appears from the ether with reverbed tom-tom and a hummable bassline tenderly adorned by piano and electronics. It foreshadows "Brand New Day," the souled-out acoustic guitar jam driven by a hovering Hammond B-3 to support Hodge's singing, as do piano and an elegantly hushed kick drum. His elegantly distorted bass solo breaks it open to impart emotional, spiritual, and carnal truth. Color of Noize pushes past Hodge's earlier albums. It's a fully realized project that will appeal to any listener willing to embrace its spontaneity. Even in its rare, chaotic, cascading moments, the album expresses a wholeness most modern musicians are incapable to summon. Hodge is an accommodating, even generous, musical explorer and therefore gets the max from his material, production, playing, and sidemen. Based on its quality, Hodge takes his place in the company of a few visionary peers such as Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, and the late Mick Karn.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo