With his third record, Derrick Hodge unleashes his freest work yet. Color of Noize (release date: June 26) 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. He’s been a go-to collaborator for Robert Glasper, Maxwell, Terence Blanchard, and Common alike — and played on GRAMMY-winning albums by all four.
Color of Noize indeed reflects a melting pot of influence and experience with jazz flow, hip-hop groove, soulful depth, spiritual heft, and creative fire. The sound 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, who happened to be Blue Note president Don Was himself.
The Color of Noize concept is 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. 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.
“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.”