Jazz bass players are an enigma: they can be the glue that holds the rhythm section of a band together; they can set the pace and feel of how a song is going to sound and on occasion, their sound becomes recognised and revered in its own right.
Taking all of the above into account, some players decide to strike out on their own and lead their own group, or as Derrick Hodge has done here, play most of the other instruments themselves.
Having bought and listened to many records and CD’s over the years, lead by bass players, I find the resulting sets tend to fall into two categories: the first is the bass player who gets all of his/her friends into the studio and produce an album that has lots of things going on (vocals, percussion, horns etc.) with the bassist ‘keeping it all together’ in their distinctive style. Other artists take solos and you hear the bass player working hard in the background and then taking their own solos.
The other category is that of the bass being the lead instrument taking the place of, say, the saxophone or keyboard.
Derrick Hodge has veered more to the latter but as he is playing most of the instruments on the album, one could say that the electric bass is not the lead instrument.
‘The Second’ is Hodge’s sophomore album for Blue Note and like his debut album ‘Live Today’ pretty much leaves me a little cold and scratching my head. This is a much respected artist that has a formidable reputation for his live performances. He has worked and toured extensively with Robert Glasper, performed live with Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller and José James to name but a few.
So the question here is why is this album so boring?
I can understand from an artist’s point of view, this must have been a blast in the studio to make but from a listener’s point of view, there is little that peaks their interest.
The set starts with the title track with its progressive drumming but simply descends into an almost 1990’s instrumental soft rock foray with an electric guitar sounding instrument taking the lead.
‘Transitions’ pretty much carries on in that same 1990’s instrument rock vein but it is much slower.
Whilst many of the tracks just meander on with drum machines, synths and effects padding the song, ‘World go Round’ seems to be the one piece that has a little improv imagination going for itself featuring bass, guitar and hand percussion in the form of finger clicks and claps.
‘For Generations’ is an old world bluesy New Orleans type song featuring saxes and horns which does what it is supposed to.
‘Don Blue’ is more engaging with its listenable melody and tasty bass playing and more hand claps. This does have a feel of something from a Thundercat album.
There is one solitary vocal at the end which I believe is Derrick’s voice.
I think the artist tried to make a progressive record which pushes the boundaries a little more but the result is an album that feels anachronistic and quite frankly uninteresting to the listener for the most part. Unfortunately, one of the flaws of being your own producer in the studio is that there is no one behind the glass to tell you these things.
Go and pull out (or indeed purchase) the Jaco Pastorius albums from the 1970’s and early 80’s to get a better representation of what an album by a bassist could sound like.