Abstract orchestra remember j dilla & chat about performing their hyped up follow up show ‘abstract orchestra does dilla’ (part 2 ) tonite
11 years ago rapper, record producer, composer, and phenomenally gifted artist J Dilla turned 32, dropped his critically acclaimed, magnum opus Donuts – then later that same week unexpectedly passed away. Leaving the hip hop world and his myriad of fans at a stand still.
“As far as our definition of hip-hop production is concerned — as far as making beats — [Dilla] is absolutely without peer,” – “Many will come after him and surpass him and do even crazier tricks, but for what my eyes have seen in those short years that I’ve known him, that’s going to be a very tall order to live up to. ” “I still use his beats as the energy power pellets to my Pacmanology, if you will.” – remarks the Roots Questlove in an interview with XXL
A meticulous master of beats and a musical genius far beyond his years – J Dilla’s prolific output and legacy of raw unique work still booms, resonates and surprises a decade on. A mass of fresh listeners continues to be born every time a resurfaced mixtape or rare sample is dug up. While legions of budding producers, artists, and devoted fans who were there from the start continue to collect, rock out and create music from the rhythmic imprint he much too soon left behind.
Among those are the brilliantly talented, 21-piece Abstract Orchestra. Who are following up their excitedly hyped tour ‘Abstract Orchestra Does Dilla” with a Part 2 this week at Jazz Cafe. Celebrating the greatest beatmaker hip-hop has ever seen- on the month of his birth and passing. Playing a live medley of Jay Dee’s most loved tracks as well as some deeper cuts, in a tribute unlike any other.
Push Pony caught up with founder Rob Mitchell to chat about how Abstract Orchestra started, Dilla, and what to expect from the show……
When/how did the Abstract Orchestra come together?
The band has been together about five years now. Myself and good friend Dave Walker came up with the idea of mixing hip-hop and big band music. I grew up playing in big bands and have always loved hip-hop, so it kind of made sense!
How did the idea to rework and pay tribute to J Dilla happen?
Kellie Adams at the Jazz Café asked if we’d do a homage night of some sort and we agreed a Dilla set would work!
Were you always a Dilla fan?
Yeah big time! I wanted to pick and perform music I love. If I have to think of the music that has influenced me the most over the past five years- more than any other, it had to be Dilla!
Is there a particular song/ album that holds more meaning or that you prefer looking at his body of work?
I love ‘The Shinning’, so many great songs on there, its fully realised and well polished. ‘Donuts’ is the opposite, much rougher round the edges. He made some of it on his death bed and some of the tracks are deeply moving, clearly using music to send a message.
What’s the run down of Abstract Orchestra? Whose all in the group?
For the ‘Abstract does Dilla’ tour it’s 18, plus on the gigs we have some special appearances. It’s a standard jazz big band setup. 5 saxes, 4 trombones, 4 trumpets, keys, bass and drums, plus 2 singers.
Do you have a section that you favour over the others?
Haha! I don’t want to cause a rift!! Without sounding too diplomatic, each section has its own quality and I love writing to try and get some of the best bits out of them. Trombones sound great doing choral style voicings but also great playing percussively, trumpets sound great high and loud etc.
What’s inspiring you or what are listening to in Jaydee’s musical arrangements when your playing a track?
His music is both simple and complex at the same time. Some tunes are simply beautiful and full of soul, others are dark and almost don’t make sense, and can leave you on edge. Others are simple head nodders. He develops ideas like a jazzer, his music sounds performed and even improvised at times and I think this is why it appeals so much, it feels real and not computerized or simple chops and loops.
What was the most difficult part of translating the complexities of his beats into an orchestra form?
Not so much beats, our drummer Joost kills it! He uses triggers and samples with his kit to help get the authentic sounds. Some of the hardest stuff is translating synth sounds, particularly the rising bubbly sounds in ‘So Far To Go’. This sort of thing you’ve just got to use your imagination and try to interpret it somehow into flutes or saxes etc. Tough but fun!
Is there a track that tried an didn’t work out?
There are some mixes or medleys that have some complex time changes, such as going half time, or bars of five and then some odd changes in tempo and time signature from 6/8 at 60bpm into 4/4 at 96bpm, they sound great though!
How long in advance do you guys rehearse for the show?
Usually a week before, it keeps it fresh in our minds.
Your first show in the summer had an amazing response, I was lucky enough to be there! What can fans of the first show expect for Dilla Part 2 this Saturday?
We’ll have some from the set in the summer but have added some new ones too so the set feels more developed and rounded. There is some more MPC action, I don’t want to spoil it but it involves Frank N Dank!
Will there be any guest feature MC’s?
The tour has been a massive success, every gig has sold out so far. We’ve had loads of interest off the back of it and the summer is shaping up nicely in terms of gigs and festivals. We have the Abstract Does Dilla Album being released very soon too!!
Abstract Orchestra Does Dilla (Part 2)
11 FEBRUARY | JAZZ CAFE CAMDEN
TICKETS £10.00 www.jazzcafelondon.com
FOLLOW ABSTRACT ORCHESTRA ON FACEBOOK @AbstractOrchestra
Words by Tracy Kawalik & Rob Mitchell
Photo Credits Kirsty Halliday, Abstract Orchestra, Mass Appeal Records