This past minute has been filled with an inordinate amount of jazz. Although it took me a few years to truly enjoy jazz, I had been interested in it for years because I always loved music with jazz influences in other genres. Since I've been particularly interested in jazz recently, I chose to feature three albums with varying degrees of relation.
Herrick & Hooley are a trio from Dallas whom you might be quick to call a rap group. However, further listening reveals a backdrop of jazz that often comes to the foreground. Saint Paul-based collective thestand4rd has a more electronic sound, although jazz chords are a constant presence that show the members' savviness to the genre. Finally, Kind of Blue, the jazz album of jazz albums, is the best place to begin exploring the classics.
New Music: Herrick & Hooley - Herrick & Hooley's Famous Honey
Genre(s): Rap, Jazz, Electronic
Good for: Relaxation, pining over lost love, wondering what honey has to do with anything
Song that will get you hooked: "Donuts"
Links: iTunes - Spotify - Soundcloud - Bandcamp - Twitter
Herrick & Hooley, a Dallas-based trio, walks the line between Jazz and Rap which has been slowly chipped away at by groups like GangStarr, Digable Planets, and BadBadNotGood. They also use subtle electronic details, and lead singer/songwriter Hunter Lewis is an expert R&B-tinged singer-rapper. Their debut LP shows that the trio respects the constructs of classic jazz, but also utilizes modern styles and sounds.
Honey begins with the upbeat "Drive In" which introduces us to its main subject matter - summer love ("Passion is the name of the emotion you are livin', We can park the car by the lake for late swimmin'"). The fast-paced, euphoric track ends in just over a minute, as if to use the medium to comment on the subject's ephemerality.
"Strangelove" and "Donuts" follow with a longer exploration of a one-sided relationship and an invitation to a cheesy romantic evening ("Come and be my love tonight, Lets make love tonight, The stars shinin’ bright, we're sippin' on some wine tonight"). Afterwards, we hear their unadulterated jazz sound with two instrumental interludes, the more somber of which aptly ties into the album's theme: "When Winter Comes Around".
The album ends with "Good Morning", a relaxed track where Lewis nonchalantly states that he doesn't care about money, is comfortable smoking weed and watching Netflix all day, and is grateful for his musical talent. He also works in a few final attempts at wooing his girl, but clearly with no immediate expectations. It sounds like he woke up, got high, and realized how happy he is to be alive.
Ten From Back Then: thestand4rd - thestand4rd
The Stand4rd is the product of a group of artists from Saint Paul, Minnesota that had previously worked closely on each other's individual projects before coming together to make a record. The most well-known of the group is probably Allan Kingdom, the rapper/singer who recently appeared on Kanye West's "All Day". You also may have heard of Spooky Black (who now goes by "Corbin"), the young R&B singer who has had more than a few Soundcloud hits. Bobby Raps earns his namesake and genius producer Psymun provides the backdrop.
Their talents blend together seamlessly. Psymun's beats are etherial and spacious, perfectly complimenting the lyricsts' unique styles and often shining on their own (see "AsapRockyTypeBeat"). Allan Kingdom offers hooks and verses that hover somewhere between singing (often with an airy falsetto) and rapping. Having two rappers on deck may seem redundant, but Bobby Raps' monotone, introspective style is a perfect juxtaposition to Kingdom's dynamic tone. Finally, Corbin rounds the group out with resonating choruses and bridges, which Psymun often serves raw by toning down his beats.
The album shows that these artists have found a place to grow and develop. Whether or not they make another album under the collective name, keep an eye out for any of their individual releases, as they'll be heavily influenced by the sound they've cultivated with this record.
Classic You Should Know: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Good for: Relaxation, Sipping a martini and cooking dinner, considering the purchase of a trumpet, wine and cheese parties
Song that will get you hooked: "Blue in Green"
Links: iTunes - Spotify - Wikipedia
Bands and Record Labels have been named after this album. It's considered by many to be the quintessential jazz record. A book could be written about why, but, for now, a quick introduction and a listen is all you need.
In addition to the trumpet wizardry of Mr. Davis, Kind of Blue contains performances from the famous (and canonized) John Coltrane, innovative pianist Bill Evans, prolific bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. This lineup alone is good reason for a listen.
You can imagine Mr. Davis and the band smirking during the opening piano/bass notes of "So What" in anticipation of what's to come. When Cobb comes in, they immediately move into a sonic motif that recurs throughout the record. The two-note phrase (you'll hear it) brings us back to the essence of their sound after each player gives solos that were unheard of at the time.
"So What" and "Freddie Freeloader" are bright and relaxed, while "Blue in Green" and "Flamenco Sketches" are slow, deliberate pieces where we can hear the performers consider each note before it's played. Furthermore, within the songs (which are on average about ten minutes long), the tone changes often. This versatility allows the album to accompany most moods and situations. If you haven't heard it yet, try it more than once - you'll hear something new every time.