Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Hodge, Derrick

Part a generation of young musicians who move back and forth between jazz and hip hop with ease, bassist Derrick Hodge has a strong melodic sense and is very expressive in the high register of the bass. Adept on both acoustic and electric instruments, his sound is an amalgam of influences drawn from soul music and gospel as well as the jazz tradition.

Derrick Hodge was born on July 5th, 1979 in Philadelphia, a city rich in musical tradition. Hodge started playing the guitar when he was seven years old, captivated by the style of church bassist Joel Ruffin, who attended the Philadelphia Beulan Baptist Church. He soon switched to the electric bass, and also began playing contra bass in his junior high school orchestra. Since there was no bass instructor at his school, so he learned his technique by watching the violinists.

As a Philadelphia teenager, Hodge soaked up all that he could from his city's rich and eclectic music scene and was mentored by keyboardist James Poyser, known for his associations with The Roots' drummer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and others. Hodge attended Willingboro High School in southern New Jersey and graduated in 1997.

Hodge continued his musical studies at Temple University in Philadelphia where he graduated in 2001. While a student at Temple University, Hodge improved his jazz skills with participation in the school's small combo and student jazz ensembles, and was also the first jazz bassist to play in the Temple Student Orchestra.

Hodge also began to make connections in the jazz world, particularly with Terrell Stafford who directed the student jazz ensembles at Temple, with bassist Christian McBride and with saxophonist Loren Schoenberg, who directed Hodge at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Jazz Academy.

In 2002, Hodge started playing with pianist Mulgrew Miller and can be heard on live recordings made by the Miller's band at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He also played with Terrell Stafford and can be heard on his 2003 album New Beginnings and his 2005 album Taking Chances: Live at the Dakota. Songs of note from New Beginnings include "Berda's Bounce," "Selah," and "Le Maurier."

Hodge was also a participant on vibraphonist Stefon Harris's 2005 album Black Tarantella: Dances with Duke. Hodge is heard on the song "Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta," which features Harris's signature blend of heavy orchestration. Hodge doubles up the driving quarter note bass feel with the brass section before the groove switches over to a relaxed, half-time feel.

Hodge struck up a working relationship with trumpeter Terence Blanchard and has worked with him on several of his releases including 2005's Flow and the 2007 release A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina).For Flow, Hodge composed three tracks off of the album. On "Flow 1," Hodge plays a slippery upright bass line as Blanchard comes over the top with a fitting melody that gives this track its nice color. Hodge can also composed "Flow 2" and "Flow 3" for the album.

Hodge, pianist Aaron Parks and drummer Kendrick Scott all contributed compositions to A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina)

. Hodge's bass lines fit hand and glove with the 40-member string orchestra on this album, and he is able to move in and out from the musical context, always implying the main musical idea. Hodge composed the song "Over There" for the album. In an interview, Blanchard said about Hodge, "When you listen to some of the things on the album, at the inception of some of the solos, Derrick would like just shift gears and he would play certain lines and he would deviate from the established lines that were composed for the tune and next thing you know he would be off in a different direction."

Songs of note from this album include "In Time of Need" and "Ghost of Congo Square."

Simultaneously, Hodge began to develop a reputation on the hip hop scene. Hodge has played bass with such emcees as Q-Tip, Common and Mos Def. He produced the introduction track on Common's 2007 album Finding Forever and is also heard playing electric bass on many of the album cuts. He also performed on Q-Tip's 2008 release The Renaissance along with jazz guitarist Mike Moreno. Soul singer Maxwell used Hodge for his 2009 BLACKsummers'night.Hodge adds very tasty bass grooves to the album and shows his penchant for playing rhythm 'n' blues providing a strong pocket and establishing the feel of the album.

Along with pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Chris "Daddy" Dave, Hodge is a member of The Experiment, which also includes saxophonist Casey Benjamin. While the group has not yet released an album, they have performed widely and also serve as the core of emcee Mos Def's big band. With Mos, they have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Carnegie Hall in New York City and in South Africa.

The Experiment's style can change radically depending upon the musical context, especially with the drumming style of Chris "Daddy" Dave, who shifts drum n' bass to hip-hop to jazz with the snap of a finger. Hodge's style fits in extremely well in this musical context; he locks in with Dave's drum patterns and gives the band the ability to make smooth transitions between their songs and improvisations.

Along with his peers, Hodge plays an integral part in an ongoing conversation between jazz and more contemporary expressions of the music of the African diaspora.

Select Discography

with Terence Blanchard

Flow (Blue Note, 2005)

A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina)

(Blue Note, 2007)

with Mulgrew Miller Live at the Kennedy Center Volume 1 (MaxJazz, 2002)

Live at the Kennedy Center Volume 2 (MaxJazz, 2002)

Live at Yoshi's Volume 1 (MaxJazz, 2003)

Live at Yoshi's Volume 2 (MaxJazz, 2003)

with Terrell Stafford

New Beginnings (MaxJazz, 2003)

Taking Chances: Live at the Dakota (MaxJazz, 2005)

with Stefon Harris

African Tarantella: Dances with Duke (Blue Note, 2005)

with Kendrick Scott

Reverence (Criss Cross Jazz, 2009)

Contributor: Jared Pauley