Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Karriem Riggins
Karriem. I want to thank you for proving once and for all there're similarities between jazz and hip-hop. Anybody that left your set at the 20011 Detroit Jazz Festival,  feeling otherwise is a numskull plain and simple. Your group the Karriem Riggins Ensemble with special guest hip-hop artist Common ripped up the JP Morgan Chase Stage, and settled an argument. 

Many avid jazz fans believe there's no connections between jazz and hip-hop. I believe there are. Jazz musicians improvise and hip-hop musicians free style. They are the same in my book. The musicians create on the spot or in the moment. 

I’ve never had a problem with jazz musicians combining hip-hop with jazz. Of course, in the wrong hands, mixing the two could be messy. Branford Marsalis proved that with his album Buckshot LeFonque. But his peers jazz trumpet player Russell Gunn and saxophone player Courtney Pine successfully combined the two forms.. 

Common rhyming about Detroit was totally improvised. When Mike Jellick’s--one of the most in demand jazz musicians in Detroit right now--soloed, he spilled his musical imagination all over the piano.

Karriem, if naysayers need more proof that free styling and improvising are blood relatives, they should watch the cypher segments of the BET Hip-hop Awards show. Top hip-hop artists come up with slick, colorful, and witty rhymes off the top of their heads. 

Ornette Coleman’s album Free Jazz that featured  Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins is a good example of   jazz musicians creating in the moment or free styling.  

Coleman and company weren’t battling or trying to outplay each other. They let their imaginations run free, and what they came up with was out of sight.

The Karriem Riggins Ensemble was more cohesive than your other ensemble Virtuoso Experience. Don’t get me wrong, I liked VE. I’m just pointing out VE had some rough edges. Slum Village wasn’t as hyped as Common was. 

Common fit perfectly with the band of A-list Detroit jazz musicians in the Karriem Riggins Ensemble. Karriem, you  proved that jazz and hip-hop have glaring similarities.

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