With his third record, 2-time GRAMMY winner Derrick Hodge unleashes his freest work yet. Color of Noize — due out June 26 on Blue Note Records — is the band, the concept, and the album, and if that name evokes more questions than answers for you, then you’re reading it right. The title is perfectly wide-open and inquisitive for a composer, bandleader, and bassist (etc.) with Hodge’s history. The album’s lead single “Not Right Now” is available today to stream or download.
Color of Noize reflects a melting pot of influence and experience with jazz flow, hip-hop groove, soulful depth, spiritual uplift, and creative fire — but the concept is best described in more abstract terms. As Hodge lays it out: “It’s the contrast, it’s the beauty, it’s the chaos, it’s the freedom — all of that.”
This album also includes a few firsts. It’s the first Hodge record to use a live band throughout. It was that band’s first time playing together, and their first time hearing the songs Hodge wrote for their session. It was also Hodge’s first time bringing in a co-producer: Blue Note president Don Was.
“It was powerful to see this group of young, brilliant improvisers set up in a circle at Hollywood’s historic United Studio A,” says Was. “It felt like a throwback to what it might have been like on the floor of a Blue Note session at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in the mid-sixties. These were ‘old school’ sessions yielding modern music so forward-looking and visionary that there is no existing genre within which to categorize it.”
“Don has this selflessness where he really wants to get to the root of what makes a musician tick and what’s pushing them in the moment,” says Hodge. “It felt invaluable to have someone like that in my corner for a project like this, to help see everything through a different lens.”
That goes to the heart of the Color of Noize concept — an intentionally broad thing meant to embrace the fluidity of sound and inspire a sense of collective ownership over that sound’s development and interpretation. “It’s an idea I feel is really relevant to our time,” Hodge says. “A new artistic heartbeat that’s about acceptance. It all relates to the spirit of now, not overly thinking, and moving forward.”
That’s why Hodge formed a brand-new group, and often just played them a quick run-through of each song on piano before letting them rip. Of course, it took a special crew to bring Color of Noize to life: Jahari Stampley and Michael Aaberg on keys, Mike Mitchell and Justin Tyson on drums, and DJ Jahi Sundance on turntables, with Hodge supplying bass, keys, guitar, and voice.
In addition to his two prior Blue Note albums — 2013’s guest-packed Live Today to 2016’s almost entirely solo The Second — Hodge been a go-to collaborator for Robert Glasper, Maxwell, Terence Blanchard, and Common alike — and played on GRAMMY-winning albums by all four. He’s helped shape striking sounds in producing albums by Blue Note labelmates Kendrick Scott and James Francies, and teamed with Quincy Jones to co-produce an album by Justin Kauflin on Jones’ label Qwest. He’s brought subtly subversive concepts to world-class orchestras in Atlanta, Chicago, and D.C., and new ideas to the Monterey Jazz Festival as a 2019 artist-in-residence. R+R=NOW featuring Hodge, Glasper, Tyson, Christian Scott, Terrace Martin, and Taylor McFerrin is only the most recent supergroup he’s co-founded. If there’s one takeaway to be had from his career, it’s this: you can put Hodge in a band — any band — but you can’t put him in a box.
The track listing for Color of Noize is as follows:
1. The Cost (Derrick Hodge)
2. Not Right Now (Hodge)
3. Little Tone Poem (Hodge)
4. You Could Have Stayed (Hodge)
5. Color of Noize (Hodge)
6. 19 (Hodge)
7. Fall (Wayne Shorter)
8. Looking At You (Hodge)
9. Heartbeats (Hodge)
10. New Day (Hodge)
11. You Could Have Stayed feat. Jahari Stampley (Hodge)
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