Dilla’s legacy on record will never be forgotten. While hip-hop will forever mourn the loss of it’s shining icons on the mic, the soulful bounce between hip-hop and R&B that will never remain just in the background is J Dilla’s. His mom a.k.a. Ma Dukes recently immortalized the late, great producer/MC’s career as part of a three-part concert series celebrating influential sound men whose presence behind the scenes is just as big when they step out front. Cue spotlight on the composer/arranger.
The documentarian company, Mochilla gathered rare footage for Timless, a three-DVD set documenting a monumental event series. The artists include J DIlla, Arthur Verocai, and Mulatu Astatke. The concert is a reinterpretation of Dilla’s most profound tracks, composed by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and performed by a 60-piece orchestra. That’s right folks, all your favorite Dilla tracks performed on violins, violas, cellos, bassoons, the full works. That isn’t to say the orchestra doesn’t get down and dirty though with the help of Thundercat on electric bass, Karriem Riggins on drums and guest vocalists including Dwele and Bilal singing their hearts out for Dilla. Moreover, the finale “Stakes is High” brings out a choir full of hip-hop giants lead by Posdnuos of De La Soul and Talib Kweli, joined by Illa J, Amp Fiddler, Shafiq Husayn, and more. Entitled “Suite for Ma Dukes,” Dilla’s mom said it the best: “It’s outstanding, it’s incredible, it’s love.” The sheer accuracy with which Ferguson attacks each track is simply astounding. The combination of the orchestral medium with Dilla’s beats is brilliant.
The series continued with Mulatu Astatke, king of Ethiopian and Latin Jazz rhythms, performing his works for a sold-out crowd in Los Angeles. Astatke brings his original Ethiopian flavor to the US in the form of funky Afrobeat tracks and Latin Jazz inspired tumbaos. Joined by veterans of the LA Jazz scene, Astatke and crew came packing intense heat.
Last, but definitely not least is Arthur Verocai joined by a 30-piece orchestra performing his self-titled album for the first time ever. Verocai’s music comes out of Brazil. At the time of it’s release, Brazil was under strict dictatorship, keeping the album from reaching commercial success until much later. He didn’t even get the chance to play it live until the very moment of the recording. If you don’t know about his contributions to the hip-hop world, check out “Do the Right Thing” by Ludacris and Common, “Passion Flower” by MF Doom (under the name Metal Fingers), as well as tracks by 9th Wonder and Lil’ Brother and many more.
Timless is availble to buy on 3/30/10. And in case you’re in Texas for SXSW check out screenings and after parties celebrating the films. Click here for the event schedule. — Eric Sandler