A Haunting History Lesson With Your Hip-Hop
[for which I did the string arrangements and performed on piano]:

From: The New York Times:

Conundrum, provocation, history lesson, ritual, chamber recital, jazz concert, elegy — the Roots’ performance at the Public Theater on Tuesday night was decidedly not a standard kickoff for a hip-hop album. That was clear when, near the beginning of the show, balloon animals were dropped onto the stage, covering it knee-deep; for the rest of the performance, each entrance and exit was accompanied by balloons popping underfoot like gunshots. Dozens of nooses also hung overhead.

The Roots are to release their 11th album, “... and then you shoot your cousin” (Def Jam), next week. It’s a brief, bleak collection of songs haunted by the desperate, self-destructive cycles of poverty and by thoughts of death and God. The music draws on gospel, soul, chamber music, electronic noise and free jazz, along with brittle hip-hop samples. Songs from the album were heard on Tuesday night primarily as recordings from the disc-jockey setup — laptop and turntables — of the Roots’ leader, Questlove (Ahmir Thompson). The Roots’ main rapper, Black Thought (Tarik Trotter), delivered poetic monologues instead, including one that telescoped African-American history from slavery to the present.

Questlove has thought deeply and broadly about African-American culture. He remains idealistic about the potential role of hip-hop, even as much current hip-hop endorses shallow materialism, and he determinedly places the Roots’ hip-hop in the lineage of forward-looking, socially conscious black music; the concert also featured recordings of Albert Ayler, James Brown, Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln.

The musicians weren’t the same Roots band seen regularly on NBC’s “Tonight” show with Jimmy Fallon. They included the Metropolis Ensemble — the conductor Andrew Cyr, a string quartet and four singers — and the jazz pianist D. D. Jackson, who wrote dramatic, somberly dissonant arrangements for the ensemble. Mr. Jackson also hurled crashing free-jazz clusters and tremolos in a duet with Questlove on drums. Jeremy Ellis tapped out some two-handed workouts from a sampler, and near the beginning of the concert, there was a primordial drone from Craig Harris on didgeridoo, joined by the percussive vocals of Rahzel, a pioneering beatboxer. Two male dancers also appeared, break dancing amid the balloons.

It was a miscellany of grim tidings and stubborn determination, of sounds both earthy and avant-garde, of bitter realities and electronic hallucinations. Songs from the album concluded with “Tomorrow,” a resolutely optimistic tune with the recorded voice of Raheem DeVaughn declaring himself “thankful to be alive.”

The Roots followed it with words from a Sun Ra recording — “If you’re not a myth, whose reality are you?” (and vice versa) — and then the kind of finale that might be expected from a Roots concert: the appearance of the band’s lead guitarist, Captain Kirk Douglas, to wail and shred through a climactic version of Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain.” This performance wasn’t the rollout of a consumer product; it was joining a cultural continuum.


The New York Times
archives
7/18/2014 - A Haunting History Lesson With Your Hip-Hop
7/18/2014 - The Roots ..And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
7/17/2009 - Milford Graves Quartet at VisionFest
2/16/2009 - Jazz-opera 'Québécité' grew from an interracial love story
12/20/2007 - www.jazzweek.com review of "Serenity Song"
11/29/2007 - Young Stars of Jazz at Yoshi's
11/8/2007 - D.D. Jackson interview for Edmonton Journal
9/26/2007 - Chinese fest at Pier 21 a cultural cornucopia
8/2/2007 - NEWS RELEASE: D.D. Jackson at MEC/Jazzy Jazz Festival in Rare Organ Appearance
7/24/2007 - NEWS RELEASE: A Family Focus for Upcoming D.D. Jackson Trio MOMA Performance
6/15/2007 - "Making Trudeau Sing!"
5/31/2007 - RADIO: interview I did with CBC about my new Trudeau opera
12/5/2006 - Harbourfront Centre’s inaugural New World Stage International Performance
11/29/2006 - Jazz Fan Ends Up on Star's Website
11/29/2006 - Jazzreview.com review of "Serenity Song"
11/5/2006 - The Voice 88.7 fm review of "Serenity Song"
10/20/2006 - Coda magazine review of "Serenity Song"
10/10/2006 - Downbeat magazine [four star] review of Serenity Song
9/19/2006 - All Music Guide review of Serenity Song
9/19/2006 - Pittsburg Tribune-Review review of Serenity Song
9/8/2006 - Finding Serenity In Queens: The D.D. Jackson Interview
8/4/2006 - Buffalo News review of Serenity Song
7/19/2006 - Opera about Pierre Elliott Trudeau to have comedy, drama, sorrow
7/12/2006 - Trudeau perfect subject for new opera, Clarke says
3/2/2006 - Montreal Gazette review of Suite for New York
3/2/2004 - Jazz Journalists International review of Suite for New York
11/18/2003 - Coda Magazine review of Suite for New York
10/16/2003 - "Québécité Is Opera for the Modern Masses"
10/16/2003 - "Quebecite"
10/3/2003 - Jazz Times review of Suite for New York
10/3/2003 - DownBeat review of Suite for New York
10/1/2003 - "Love and Cross-Cultural Struggles in Quebecite"
10/1/2003 - "One World Vibe: Can a Canadian pianist, European bassist, and Cuban drummer play America's music?"
9/1/2003 - "Definitely Not Your Parent's Opera"
8/30/2003 - "Québécité celebrates festival's 10th year", Kitchener Waterloo Record
6/13/2003 - Buffalo News review of Suite for New York
6/12/2003 - Toronto Globe and Mail review of Suite for New York
6/1/2003 - All About Jazz review (#2) of Suite for New York
6/1/2003 - Toronto Star review of Suite for New York
4/3/2003 - All About Jazz review (#1) of Suite for New York
3/5/2003 - Barnes & Noble online review of Suite for New York
3/4/2003 - Jazzreviews.com review of Suite for New York
2/3/2003 - "Jackson Breaks Free to Follow Jazz Whim"
12/11/2002 - "Restless Talent Alights Here"
11/1/2002 - "Improvisational Pianist Among World's Best"
11/1/2002 - Jazz Journal International review of Sigame
6/24/2002 - "Jackson in Action: New York based pianist protects his sound by going with a small label"
4/1/2002 - "Crossing Borders: Reflections on the 30th Annual IAJE Conference"
3/1/2002 - "Traditions: A Settling Storm"
9/2/2001 - CDNOW review of Sigame
Quotes
"D.D. Jackson is, at his best, the most inventive pianist under 50, dashing across the keyboard with preternatural speed yet never losing his classical grace and precision or his left-hand bluesy roots...."

-- - Fred Kaplan, The Absolute Sound
Suite for New York:
An impressive montage of controlled chaos, exciting solo work and promise of things to come: a febrile fusion of futuristic jazz, contemporary classical, streetwise funk and Afro-Cuban sensuality.

-- - Jazz Times Magazine
Quebecite:
"The score is a powerful, identifiably Jacksonesque effort full of energy, rhythm, and flourish..."

-- - Mark Miller, the Globe and Mail
Sigame:
"Swinging, immediate and risk-taking, Sigame is everything a great jazz album should be."

-- - Pulse magazine
"They should have called it "Stand Back, Here Comes D.D. Jackson." This passionate young Canadian pianist sounds like a state-of-the-art player piano exceeding the limits of human performance. "......So Far" is clearly a contender for jazz record of the year. Don't miss it."

-- Steve Guttenberg, Audio magazine