Derrick Hodge Biography and Articles

Monterey Jazz Festival 

Two-time Grammy Award-winning bassist and Blue Note Recording Artist Derrick Hodge attended Temple University and was the first jazz major to participate in their Symphony Orchestra and New Music Chamber Orchestra. His wide range of accomplishments in many genres include orchestrations and arrangements for Nas with the National Symphony Orchestra, Common, and Kanye West. Hodge has won two R&B Grammys with the Robert Glasper Experiment, and co-produced albums with Quincy Jones and Don Was. Hodge has toured, performed or recorded with Maxwell, Kanye West, Herbie Hancock, Q-Tip, Mos Def, Timbaland, Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Gerald Levert, Common, Bilal, Andre 3000, Sade, Terence Blanchard, Ledisi, Terell Stafford, Donald Byrd, Stefon Harris, and many others. For Blue Note, Hodge has released The Second and Live Today, and has written original music for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Chicago Brass Ensemble. Some of his many film score credits include Back to School Mom, the 180 Days documentary series for PBS, Land of OpportunityBlack CandleThe Army Recruiter, and Uneasy Listening. Hodge has performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival multiple times over the years and represented MJF during the 50th Anniversary All-Stars’ national tour in 2008.


Blue Note Artist Page

Recording period between 2013-Present

Derrick Hodge is a celebrated composer and bassist who is equally adept on both electric and upright instruments. While he is best known as a member of the Robert Glasper Experiment, he is an accomplished session musician who has worked extensively across jazz, cinematic, and R&B genres.

Hodge was born in Philadelphia and first began playing electric guitar before switching to electric bass while still in elementary school. He played in his school’s concert band and orchestra. He was introduced to the contrabass in junior high, but had no formal instruction on the instrument when he undertook it. He taught himself the instrument by using his electric techniques and adapted them by watching the other string players in the orchestra. While in high school, Hodge performed in the orchestra and spent his spare time working on the many different kinds of music that were bubbling up in and around Philadelphia, from R&B and hip-hop to gospel and jazz. During this crucial period, he counted James Poyser and Jethaniel Nixon as primary influences.

Hodge attended Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music. He not only studied jazz composition and performance, but also took private lessons on both the upright and electric basses from Vince Fay. He was a member of the Temple University Jazz Band and Small Ensemble under Terell Stafford, but also the Temple University Symphony Orchestra and New Music Chamber Orchestra. Outside of school, he studied with Christian McBride at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Academy.

While still in school, Hodge began recording with a slew of Philly R&B and hip-hop talent, including Jill Scott, Musiq (Soulchild), and Floetry. He joined pianist Mulgrew Miller’s live and recording group in 2003. In 2005 he was the featured bassist on Common’s hit recording Be. The same year he began his compositions. Time spent understudying with Terence Blanchard was important because in addition to playing and composing, Hodge began studying film composition. He contributed cues to Blanchard’s score for Spike Lee’s film When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, as well as tunes to the trumpeter/composer’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) in 2006. That year Hodge also played on Stefon Harris’s celebrated African Tarantella album. In 2007, Hodge contributed music, bass, and production to Common’s Finding Forever (he also played on two of the rapper’s subsequent albums). Other R&B and hip-hop artists him out as well, including Timbaland, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Kanye West, and Gerald Levert.

The bassist composed the score to Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie’s documentary Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans in 2008. That same year, Hodge joined the Robert Glasper Experiment with Chris Dave and Casey Benjamin, and composed the score for the Edet Belzberg film The Recruiter. The RGE made their recorded debut on the 2009 album Double Booked, and Hodge was bandleader and musical director on Maxwell’s BLACKsummers’night, and played on Blanchard’s Choices, and Gretchen Parlato’s In a Dream. In 2011, Hodge was busy recording and touring with the RGE. Later in the year they cut the monumental jazz-R&B-pop crossover hit Black Radio, which was released in February of 2012; they toured for the rest of year and into 2013. Also in 2012, M.K. Asante’s documentary The Black Candle, featuring a score by the bassist, made its debut on the Starz cable television network.

Hodge signed to Blue Note Records and began to record his solo debut during tour breaks. In early 2013, Black Radio won the Grammy for Best R&B Album. Hodge’s self-produced record Live Today arrived in August, with appearances by all members of the RGE, as well as Common, Poyser, Aaron Parks, and others. ~ Thom Jurek

First Listen: Derrick Hodge, ‘Live Today’

July 28, 201310:30 PM ETJOSH JACKSON

Knowledge. Integrity. Wisdom. Respect. Love.You’ll find those five words inked permanently onto Derrick Hodge’s electric bass. That instrument now lubricates two very fluid ensembles led by Maxwell and Robert Glasper.Hodge, who grew up outside Philadelphia, acknowledges a direct lineage. He’s long been surrounded by musicians who love and practice their craft with a purpose: from jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller to producer Jazzy Jeff, as well as singer Jill Scott and the gospel sounds of the Tribbett family. Derrick Hodge amplifies that foundation in some very special ways on his debut recording Live Today.Just about everyone on this record is a producer. Trumpeter Keyon Harrold wrote hit records for 50 Cent. Travis Sayles worked with Hodge in Maxwell’s band, and has crafted sound for Justin Bieber. Producer and session master James Poyser has been a mentor since the bassist was a teenager. Drummer Chris Dave is a mastermind of sound and rhythm.”I wanted to merge that sensibility with a great ‘on paper’ thinkers like [pianist] Aaron Parks,” Hodge says. “Put them in a room together and see what happens. I didn’t want any more than two takes, and most of these songs were single takes. They’re playing as if they are reading off paper, but they’re reacting and responding to each other in an honest way. [Bassist and songwriter] Alan Hampton did single takes. I explained to Common what I was going for, and he got it.” When you listen to Live Today, know that this recording carries the genetic code of jazz — a word perpetually lost at sea, but one that Hodge found a way to anchor in some important ways.”Conceptually,” Hodge says, “jazz represents a culture of people that were doing a certain way of thinking, and that thinking has just as valid an impact on American music than the idiosyncrasies of definition.”That’s the common thread you find in hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll. On the surface, these genres talked against each other, but at the core it’s the approach. It’s the feeling that I’m going to do this to say how I feel in my culture in my time.”Hodge doesn’t seem to be taking the responsibility of all this musical information lightly. The ancestors are dancing — and so are people who live today. He is providing the groove.