If you enjoy modern jazz and hip-hop, there is a good chance the music by one of these four gentlemen has blessed your ears. Dinner Party is a recently founded group composed of four of modern jazz and hip-hop’s greatest artists. The collective consists of Kamasi Washington and Terrace Martin, two Los Angeles native saxophonists with a flurry of credits including Kendrick Lamar, longtime producer 9th Wonder who has produced for Jay-Z, Mac Miller and Wale, and renowned pianist/ producer Robert Glasper, whose catalogue spans throughout hip-hop and jazz with artists like Kanye West, Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu. When the four come together for this eponymous record, the result is a smooth ride of fantastic production and excellent instrumentation. The longtime friendship between the group aids the musical chemistry as the line distinguishing improvised and rehearsed becomes non-existent. In its seven track, 23 minutes run time, Dinner Party showcases each artist’s strength by fusing live instrumentation with vocals from guest artist Phoelix.
The album begins with “Sleepless Nights,” introduced by Washington’s welcoming saxophone along with fluttering piano from Glasper. The song rises to a chorus with Phoelix addressing the importance of perseverance in times of self-doubt, and 9th Wonder’s head-bopping percussion. In between choruses, Martin and Washington provide enchanting saxophone riffs. Overall, I think “Sleepless Nights” is a fantastic start to the record and provides the audience with more than enough reason to continue listening.
The record ups the energy with “Love You Bad,” which features a J.Dilla-esque beat complete with dusty percussion, soft piano, saxophone and looping soul vocals. This bopping instrumental justifies why all these artists are in high demand from the biggest names in hip-hop. The third track, “From My Heart and Soul,” is effective in many of the same ways but in less of a rush than its predecessor. The track also shows the more experimental side of these artists with the watery piano behind the swinging percussion and looping, echoing chorus.
“First Responders” comes in as the album’s longest track at 4:50 and uses its time to give Washington all the room to work. 9th Wonder provides an airy beat with soft looping vocal riffs and glittering xylophone. The lightness of the production lets Washington do what he does best. The song builds up to a seemingly nonchalant riff where Washington justifies his place amongst the world’s most prolific saxophonists. The fifth track, “The Might Tree,” although enjoyable, is easily the most underwhelming track on the record as it lacks any substantial variation in its run time and does not feature any stand out vocals or instrumentation.
The last two tracks feature some of my favorites in the collection. “Freeze Tag” comprises a looping “WOO” along with signature 9th Wonder swinging production. Being the most lyrically dense track on the entire project, Phoelix depicts an arrest and provides commentary on the current turmoil surrounding the malicious actions of police officers and the systemic racism that exists in police departments across the United States. The project concludes as smoothly as the introduction. “LUV U” is the most electronic on the record, including echoing 808 and an electronic voice assuring their love for a significant other. All things considered, Dinner Party is an extremely well put together collection of songs and I highly recommend it to anyone.