With the help of legendary hip hop producer 9th Wonder, this trio of modern jazz giants is ushering in a new generation of jazz fusion that has yet to be realized.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Miles Davis pioneered the jazz fusion movement that combined the musical elements of jazz with the electric instrumentation and production techniques used in rock and roll to create a new, cohesive genre of music. While the music itself may have differed from artist to artist depending on their musical preferences and tendencies, the genre was nonetheless solidified, and jazz had successfully integrated itself into the popular music of the day, rock n’ roll.
Today, Glasper, Martin and Washington may be ushering in a new generation of jazz fusion, one that combines the musical elements of jazz with the modern technology and production techniques of hip hop. Although hip hop and jazz have often coexisted in the past – in fact there is no hip hop without the foundation of jazz – the trio’s new collaboration album could be introducing something entirely different to both genres of music.
All three musicians have worked together in the past, and all have experience within the realm of hip hop. Just last year, Glasper released his most recent studio album, Fuck Yo Feelings, which blended his supreme jazz keyboard ability with the raps of Mick Jenkins, YBN Cordae, Denzel Curry, Rapsody and Buddy. Martin has produced countless records for the elite of hip hop, including Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, The Game and many others. Washington, along with both Glasper and Martin, collaborated with Kendrick Lamar on his 2015 experimental masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly, which was a huge leap in fusing the genres of jazz and hip hop.
With all three musicians familiar with the workings of both jazz and hip hop, it comes as no surprise that a collaboration between the three jazz giants, with the help of a seasoned hip hop producer, lead to a groundbreaking and possibly revolutionary album that may help define the sound of hip hop for the next decade to come. 9th Wonder’s production provides the classic west coast bounce that provides a great pocket for saxophonists Martin and Washington to operate in. Martin, as multi-faceted as he is, adds some saxophone, keyboard and production stylings of his own, while Glasper lays down jazzy chords on the keys with ease throughout the entirety of the album. Washington, as dynamic as he is on the saxophone, takes somewhat of a laid back approach, as his sax riffs are pleasant without being over dominant over the rest of the music.
While there is certainly no lack of the influence of jazz on this album, 9th Wonder still keeps the album within the feel of hip hop through the repetition of his beats. Some of the saxophone lines may subtly change throughout the song, and there is certainly room for improvisation within the chords, but there is equally room for an MC to freestyle over the beats presented in the album than there is for a jazz musician to improvise. That is the beauty of this album: it almost perfectly straddles the razor thin line that separates hip hop from jazz, and while albums in the past have explored the relationship between the two distinct styles of music, no album has seemed to fuse them together with the ease that this album has.
Hip hop has been on a collision course with instrumentation since the previous decade kicked off with Kanye West’s musically-driven hip hop masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Since that time, vinyl record sales have steadily increased every year becoming just the second choice behind streaming services among consumers, the NPR Tiny Desk series, and concerts and touring in general, have boomed in popularity, more and more rappers have turned their focus to production in the studio and live instrumentation in concert, and stars like Anderson .Paak, H.E.R. and Tyler, The Creator have shown how combining hip hop and r&b with live music can create an entirely new musical experience.
There is no telling what the next decade will bring musically. However, it seems likely that the next decade could bring a renaissance of instrumentation of sorts, as hip hop artists may favor fronting a complete band with backup singers and all rather than performing alone with a DJ backing them. Not all will be quick to adopt live music into their work, but those who do will find that their music reaches a broader audience and stretches across multiple demographics than hip hop traditionally would. Instrumentation is here to stay, and if hip hop continues to align itself with guitars, basses, drums and horns, the music that will result will be as fresh and new as jazz fusion was in the 1970’s.
Listen to Dinner Party below:
I have just completed my senior year at the University of Michigan majoring in international studies with an emphasis in political economics and development, with a minor in Chinese language and culture, and I have recently been accepted into the Berklee School of Music’s masters of music business program. Although economics, politics and history are all academic interests of mine, I consider music to be my true passion.
Music has always been my passion, and it is a driving force for the way I think, act, and conduct myself on a daily basis. I have been playing the clarinet and saxophone since the age of ten, and the ability to play music at a high level has allowed me to embrace music on a multitude of levels. I am both an avid player and listener of music, and I find myself constantly in search of new artists who bring something new and different to the art form, and writing about new music has become a new outlet for me to explore what is going on in the musical world.