Sometimes Derrick Hodge cant believe how lucky hes been throughout the years.
The 34-year-old Philadelphia native has always found himself in the right place and time when it comes to creating music with artists who bring him along for the ride when their careers take off.
Currently living in Los Angeles, Hodge has been a long-standing member of the Robert Glasper Experiment, performing with the acclaimed contemporary jazz artist on his Grammy-winning 2012 album, Black Radio.
I feel very fortunate, because a lot of things for me have just happened in the way that I couldve never even planned for, he says, calling from Croatia, where hes currently touring with the Experiment.
I had no idea that all these relationships would blossom into opportunities where Id be able to be documented, you know, at such a young age. So I feel very blessed to just come along and be around a lot of forward-thinking people.
Hodge has been studying and playing music since he was a boy (he began playing electric guitar when he was 7 before switching to electric bass guitar a year later), growing up to become an in-demand session player in the city of brotherly love. Some of the citys most progressive R&B performers like Musiq Soulchild, Bilal, Vivian Green would holler at Hodge to play bass on their albums.
At that point, it was just a lot of hungry people trying to document what they do, he says. Before you know it, a whole movement happened.
It helps that the scene had mentors who inspired Hodge and other musicians to come up with music that would end up taking them to bigger and better places. DJ Jazzy Jeff was one of those mentors, as his A Touch of Jazz studios became a haven for artists looking to jam and experiment.
Another mentor Hodge gives props to on a regular basis is James Poyser, the famed producer and session musician whos also a member of Phillys The Roots.
I guess one of my duties in life is to make sure I mention him as much as possible, because I cant say how much of an impact he personally had on so many musicians, he says. A lot of musicians actually checked out certain things on the scene because, literally, James Poyser said to do it. He was like the Godfather you know, a lot of people called him that around that area.
Hodge has shown his gratitude to Poyser by inviting him to be one of many guest artists on Live Today, Hodges debut jazz album. Considering that Hodge is also a major player in the jazz world performing on other jazz musicians projects as well as playing on a Grammy-winning film score composed by jazz great Terence Blanchard doing a jazz album of his own seemed like the next logical step. But Today shows how inventive and experimental Hodge can get when hes working on music of his own.
As far as my process, being as this is my first album as a solo artist, I really wanted to make sure that, for better or worse, I was giving people, like, honest snapshots of how I felt at any given moment in time, he says. It didnt just have to do with the music itself, but also the process, the way I recorded it and the types of musicians that actually ended up working on the album with me.
Hodge comes to the Triangle on the week his album drops (hell be performing a CD release concert at Durhams Casbah on Wednesday) and he is out to show that being a musician is more than just looking right for the part. Its all about hard work, building relationships, coming up through the ranks and, most importantly, being true to yourself and your art.
I think thats what people need nowadays, he says. Because, being in this industry long enough, I see a lot of the smoke and mirrors and that sells. And you got a lot of kids trying to be like an image that, you know, a lot of times we put out there the floss that we show and all that stuff. And people wanna be that, not realizing that a lot of these people that theyre trying to emulate have the same struggles, you know.