Fans of A Tribe Called Quest are familiar with the group’s genre-melding sound—including creating rap beats using jazz music.
The Midnight Hour, the latest project from Ali Shaheed Muhammad, a founding member of ATQC, offers a similar sound—just without the rapping.
Muhammad has joined composer Adrian Younge for this new jazz-fusion group that will move and groove you in the ways the jazz bands of old could do. On the group’s self-titled debut album, Muhammad and Younge are surrounded by a full orchestra, and have a few special vocal guests on duty. Stand-out tracks include the instrumental “Black Beacon” and the lead single “Questions,” which features CeeLo Green on vocals.
The Midnight Hour will perform this Saturday, Nov. 16, at The Alibi Palm Springs.
“Ali and I met when I was working on a project for (hip-hop group) Souls of Mischief,” Younge said during a recent phone interview. “I was a fan of his from A Tribe Called Quest and onto his solo work and stuff that he did with Lucy Pearl. It was a mutual thing. I asked Ali to be a part of the (2014 Souls of Mischief album, There Is Only Now), and he said yes. He came to my studio, and we started working, and I just felt a real kinship with him. It was as if we had been in a group for years, and from that point, we just started making music. That’s how The Midnight Hour came together.”
Before The Midnight Hour project became an official release, the duo worked together to provide the soundtrack to Luke Cage, a Marvel series on Netflix. Younge talked about his soundtrack process.
“Basically, you look at the scene and see what you can do to enhance the visuals,” said Younge. “You are there to make the picture look better, so you need to see the picture in order to enhance the mood. Certain projects are harder, because you have to be in line with what the director wants. Sometimes the director’s vision may not be your vision. As long as you guys are on the same page, then it’s an easier project, but then at that point, it is just based on how much work you actually have to do. Some directors don’t want that much music, and some directors want a lot of music.”
The Midnight Hour’s sound reminds of great jazz artists, such as Coltrane or Miles Davis, while adding a splash of funk. These two sides of the coin blend beautifully together, creating a sound that both honors the group’s heroes and shows off a unique personal sound.
“We’re inspired by Idris Muhammad, the Mizell Brothers, Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers—a lot of these jazz pioneers who served as a lot of the bedrock for hip-hop,” Younge said. “We’re getting inspired by those guys, but we are also doing our own thing that started decades ago. We are always going to have our own signature—always.”
After listening to the music, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate title for the group than The Midnight Hour. Younge agreed.
“It was just the feeling of the music,” Younge said. “The kind of music that we make just resonates in that midnight hour—that late-night type vibe where the worries of the world don’t matter so much, when you’re just more receptive to feeling.”
The Midnight Hour will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16, at The Alibi Palm Springs, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets to the 21-and-over show are $16.50. For tickets or more information, visit the ticketing website.