Review: Derrick Hodge – The Second


To use poet Harlem Renaissance Jean Toomer's words, "Whoever it was who brought the first wood and coal / To start the Fire, did his part well" and so we continue to reap the fruits of jazz. Every so often, jazz musicians create some sort of musical singularity, bringing a bit of change to the tradition. Derrick Hodge’s new album, The Second, is just such. A successful attempt at producing singular jazz; it's rooted in his experience playing R&B, hip-hop, and composing for film. 

The album’s pieces are all subtle fusions. We hear, for example, neo-soul in the sultry “Going” yet we also hear the playfulness of hip-hop or pop in “Don Blue.” 

Multi-instrumentalist Hodge plays most of the parts on The Second but there are several songs on which other musicians are featured: Mark Colenburg on drums, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, Corey King on trombone, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland. The overall level of musicianship is very high from start to finish. These pieces come off as different individual performances strung together as one raw recording, rather than feeling like the cohesive exploration of a theme.

Most of The Second communicates emotional depth. “Clock Strikes Zero” has the tone of a cosmopolitan tale of strife in coming of age. “World Go Around” begins with a pretty jovial rhythm, though it still carries emotional heft. “The Heart of a Dreamer” does nothing to move the listener to smile, laugh, or dance; instead, here Hodge chooses to affect sentiment. The album's title track is also its standout piece in which melody meets rhythm.

“From Me To You” is the only track on The Second featuring lyrics. Those lyrics would have been more effectively delivered by a vocalist more capable than Hodge.

At times, The Second feels like music designed to accompany a ballet performance,  a “soundtrack to human motion,” as Jason Moran might have put it. It’s easy to imagine a dancer performing a “pas de chat” to most of Hodge’s songs; that's a direction worthy of further exploration. The New York City Ballet was founded in 1948, around the time of jazz’s first postwar independence in Bebop; perhaps the independence of jazz and fine dance could meet somewhere in the middle with Derrick Hodge soundtracking such an interaction. 

Buy the release HERE


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