US composer and bassist Derrick Hodge is on a high after a teleconference about his performance at The Kennedy Center with prolific rapper Nas and America’s National Symphony Orchestra.
The multi-Grammy award winner is in Australia with his band the Robert Glasper Experiment and will return in June for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival on a double bill with compatriot, Chris Turner.
In the meantime, he is orchestrating half the songs for the Kennedy Center concert in March celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nas’ debut album, Illmatic.
“It’s one of those moments that, you know, sometimes you don’t know that a moment was special until it has passed and you look back and it’s like `that was really cool’,” Hodge says.
“But this is one of those moments where I can sense the magnitude of it.”
Hodge has performed and recorded with high profile artists across different musical styles, including influential jazz pianist the late Mulgrew Miller, R&B star Jill Scott and hip hop icon Kanye West.
But it wasn’t until last year that the 34-year-old released his debut solo album, Live Today.
Live Today is a diverse listen, featuring rapper Common singing the title track, love song Holding Onto You (which he wrote specifically with Alan Hampton in mind for vocals) and Doxology (I Remember), complete with producer Travis Sayles, who has worked with Justin Bieber, on the organ.
“I’m naturally a hybrid of different things; I’m not a jazz musician by nature,” Hodge explains.
“I’m kind of just a product of the radio, listening to different styles of music and having mentors that encourage me to go for it while everybody else is doing a certain type of thing.”
Doxology (I Remember) is inspired by Hodge’s childhood spent admiring the organist in his mother’s baptist church.
Hodge says he knew he wanted to be a musician around the age of six or seven and his mother told him to listen to something different on the radio every night.
“That was the best advice my Mum has ever given to me,” he says.
“You want to be a musician? Listen.”
The Melbourne International Jazz Festival swings into action on May 30 and will include larger scale shows plus smaller club performances.
* Melbourne International Jazz Festival Highlights:
May 30 – Charles Lloyd Sky Trio, Melbourne Recital Centre
May 30 – Glenn Miller Orchestra, Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall
June 7 – Robert Davi Sings Sinatra, Palais Theatre
June 7 – Derrick Hodge, Chris Turner, The Forum
June 7 – 774’s Swing Noir, Melbourne Town Hall