Karriem Riggins’ new album, “Headnod Suite,” proves that hip-hop is not the only genre that can get people moving. Songs like “Suite(Intro),” “Other Side of the Track,” and “Yes, Yes, Ya’ll,” display an obvious urban sensibility, but are arranged in a way that demonstrate their composer is aware of the attributes of all the genres used to create the hybrid music.
Into the Headnod
Truthfully, the title of Riggins’ album piqued my interest. A jazz album called “Headnod Suite” would most certainly be a hybrid recording, but how will it work? Sometimes, jazz is called “fusion” and the resulting sound is one that is essentially jazz with one or two elements of another genre worked into the mix. Clearly, I had no idea what to expect.
Because of jazz’s reputation as an older art form, the listening public forgets sometimes that there are still relatively young people producing jazz. That is one of the successes of this album—the fusion of DJ/Electronica elements announces that the work is by someone who is young enough to be well-versed in modern music forms, but skilled enough in jazz to create arrangement based on the systems from that form as well.
From this first song on, the influence of rap can be heard. The micro-track sets a tone with its fluid bass, the sound of scratched vinyl over the voice of an emcee trying to start the show, and over it all, a soulful saxophone. The saxophone remains consistent, but audiences shouldn’t get comfortable—the near-perfect hybrid is only 49 seconds long.
“Other Side of the Track”
Song number two begins quickly as “Suite(Intro) fades out. This is another obviously rap-influenced song, and that is not a criticism. The track is beat-heavy, and once in a while, the potentially monotonous beat is broken up by a searing, rock-influenced guitar, that plays low and chunky chords. The song’s title seems embodied here, that this song with its clear rock influence, is the other side of the first song with its rap elements. The atmosphere is fun without being silly or cartoonish. That music of all types is an art should be clear to listeners of this song.
“Yes, Yes, Ya’ll”
For all intents and purposes, “Yes, Yes, Ya’ll” sounds like a rap song. The hypnotic, urban beats are accented by a deep electronic voice intoning the title phrase over and over. Then, the bass and other aspects of contemporary, urban music disappear, and swing music replaces it. In addition, a male singer (Riggins?) offers a good-natured scat. The song ends abruptly. Again, this is just an observation.
Riggins’ album succeeds in ways many others do not. The mix of different music genres’ elements never takes on a gimmicky feel. Instead, each attribute is used to its best potential and listeners can detect the artist’s respect for various types of music. The songs on the album are short, and that works with the contemporary feel of the work. The short songs also indicate the artist’s attention to craft—sometimes long songs are artistic, but not always fun to listen to, especially if listeners are likely to lose their places. “Headnod Suite” is an ambitious album that achieves its goals one relatively short song at a time.