KARRIEM RIGGINS (DJ set) with MYMANHENRI and DJ TAKTIKS at Wrongbar (1279 Queen West), Friday (February 22), doors 9:30 pm. $10-$13. EB, MA, PDR. See listings.
There are two sides to Karriem Riggins, the musician. For the past eight years, and as we speak, the jazz drummer's been touring regularly with Diana Krall's band. But the sonic I.D. found on Alone Together, his November LP for Stones Throw, puts him into the esoteric beatmaker category.
"There are still fans of my jazz work who say things like, ‘Oh, you did a hip-hop record? I didn't know you did hip-hop!'" says Riggins, laughing good-naturedly. "It's definitely [seen as] different, but this is all one direction for me, and I hope to bring it together one day."
This might be the year. Largely self-taught, Riggins came up playing alongside his jazz organist father and watching the greats play in Detroit before he moved to NYC to work. He's logged over a decade's worth of credits as producer and performer on records by a serious list of artists, from Common to Slum Village, from Erykah Badu to Paul McCartney and, of course, Krall. He's got new jazz-inspired and hip-hop releases on the way; Alone Together, an instrumental record bisecting Riggins's eclectic listening habits, was just the start.
"I've been making beats for years, so for me to make music that speaks from the heart and is not necessarily tailored to another artist, that can exist as a stand-alone instrumental, was a blessing," he explains. "I wanted people to understand and see and hear that I can move through genres like African, classical, Afro-Cuban, etc, as well as [being able to] chop and loop."
Riggins's ease in interpolating other genres with hip-hop is reminiscent of the late J Dilla's. But Dilla, whom Riggins first met in Detroit around 1996, made a more direct impact. "I grew up learning from a jazz perspective. He taught me about [the producer's] perspective: listening for loops and different ways to flip a record."
With Dilla, it wasn't about having a closet full of gear - his set-up included just a couple of drum machines and record players - but rather his finesse with EQ and sound, explains Riggins.
"He could create a rhythm pattern on a drum machine that felt real. Sometimes I would question if it was him playing drums. For the majority of my stuff that I program, I like to add that [human] element. And when I can't get it, I'll go to the drum set and just play it."