Derrick Hodge is a celebrated composer and bassist who is equally adept on both electric and upright instruments. While he is best known as a member of the Robert Glasper Experiment, he is an accomplished session musician who has worked extensively across jazz, cinematic, and R&B genres.
After years as an essential band member in groups led by artists including trumpeter Terence Blanchard, keyboardist Robert Glasper, rapper Common, and R&B singers Jill Scott and Maxwell, the bassist and composer Derrick Hodge stepped out on his own in 2013 with the release of Live Today, his debut album for Blue Note Records which introduced a strikingly original voice of his own.
“Mr. Hodge has made a cinematic word of his own,” declared the New York Times in their glowing review of Live Today. JazzTimes called the album “a focused, cohesive and artistically ambitious record,” noting that it’s “identity, and lasting beauty, is found in his arrangements,” and praising how naturally Hodge’s sound wove together jazz and hip hop: “the hypnotic morphing of textures and timbres within these liquid arrangements herald new chemistry and creative fuel.”
Hodge returned with a sensational follow-up on Blue Note, The Second, a sincere album that derives its emotional force from the enormous love he received from fans after releasing Live Today and touring the music around the world. While that album was composed by Hodge with a band sound in mind that included special guests, here he opted for a very different approach, forgoing a conventional accompanying band and instead playing all of the instruments himself with only a few exceptions – drums from Mark Colenburg on three tracks and horns performed by trumpeter Keyon Harrold, trombonist Corey King, and tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland on one track.
Hodge was born in Philadelphia and first began playing electric guitar before switching to electric bass while still in elementary school. He played in his school's concert band and orchestra. He was introduced to the contrabass in junior high, but had no formal instruction on the instrument when he undertook it. He taught himself the instrument by using his electric techniques and adapted them by watching the other string players in the orchestra. While in high school, Hodge performed in the orchestra and spent his spare time working on the many different kinds of music that were bubbling up in and around Philadelphia, from R&B and hip-hop to gospel and jazz. During this crucial period, he counted James Poyser and Jethaniel Nixon as primary influences.
Hodge attended Temple University's Esther Boyer College of Music. He not only studied jazz composition and performance, but also took private lessons on both the upright and electric basses from Vince Fay. He was a member of the Temple University Jazz Band and Small Ensemble under Terell Stafford, but also the Temple University Symphony Orchestra and New Music Chamber Orchestra. Outside of school, he studied with Christian McBride at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Academy.
While still in school, Hodge began recording with a slew of Philly R&B and hip-hop talent, including Jill Scott, Musiq (Soulchild), and Floetry. He joined pianist Mulgrew Miller's live and recording group in 2003. In 2005 he was the featured bassist on Common's hit recording Be. The same year he began his compositions. Time spent understudying with Terence Blanchard was important because in addition to playing and composing, Hodge began studying film composition. He contributed cues to Blanchard's score for Spike Lee's film When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, as well as tunes to the trumpeter/composer's A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) in 2006. That year Hodge also played on Stefon Harris's celebrated African Tarantella album. In 2007, Hodge contributed music, bass, and production to Common's Finding Forever (he also played on two of the rapper's subsequent albums). Other R&B and hip-hop artists him out as well, including Timbaland, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Kanye West, and Gerald Levert.
The bassist composed the score to Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie's documentary Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans in 2008. That same year, Hodge joined the Robert Glasper Experiment with Chris Dave and Casey Benjamin, and composed the score for the Edet Belzberg film The Recruiter.
The RGE made their recorded debut on the 2009 album Double Booked, and Hodge was bandleader and musical director on Maxwell's BLACKsummers'night, and played on Blanchard's Choices, and Gretchen Parlato's In a Dream. In 2011, Hodge was busy recording and touring with the RGE. Later in the year they cut the monumental jazz-R&B-pop crossover hit Black Radio, which was released in February of 2012; they toured for the rest of year and into 2013. Also in 2012, M.K. Asante's documentary The Black Candle, featuring a score by the bassist, made its debut on the Starz cable television network.
Hodge signed to Blue Note Records and began to record his solo debut during tour breaks. In early 2013, Black Radio won the Grammy for Best R&B Album. Hodge's self-produced record Live Today arrived in August, with appearances by all members of the RGE, as well as Common, Poyser, Aaron Parks, and others. —By Thom Jurek
In 2013, Michael [Mike] Mitchell officially became an alumnus of the highly acclaimed Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas. It was there where he began his formal jazz education joining distinguished alumni Norah Jones, Erykah Badu and Roy Hargrove who collectively have won more than 20 Grammys. Additionally, Michael has studied extensively at Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony (two years), Skidmore Jazz Institute, Jamey Aebersold Jazz Workshop, and Vail Jazz Workshop where he was honored to receive an exclusive mentorship with jazz drumming master, Lewis Nash.
Among Michael’s most distinguished achievements and a lifelong dream is currently touring and performing with legendary bassist, producer and composer Stanley Clarke. Mike affirms that it is an awesome privilege to now be both a fan and employee of Mr. Clarke. Another notable achievement was having performed with jazz icon Herbie Hancock during the global celebration of the 2012 Inaugural International Jazz Day in Congo Square New Orleans, Louisiana. Michael is humbled to have graced the stage at such a historical event to pay tribute to the very existence of jazz, the music that originated here in the great United States of America.
Retrospectively, Michael has received many awards and commendations to date. From 2010 to 2014, Michael has been the recipient of 13 DownBeat Awards (including two consecutive years as winner of the Best Pop/Rock Solo Performance). He also won the award for Outstanding Soloist Award the 2012 Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey. For three consecutive years of his high school career, Mike was selected to tour with the Thelonious Monk Institute National Magnet High School All-Star Jazz Ensembles. More recently, he has worked with Blue Note artist Derrick Hodge, Grammy and multi-award winning artists Al Jarreau, Branford Marsalis, Chrisette Michele, Bob Mintzer, Terell Stafford, as well as having recorded in the renowned Rudy Van Gelder Studio with Grammy winner Christian McBride.
Michael has been cited as the next up and coming artist in a variety of worldwide magazine publications such as Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Urban Drummer and Jazz News (France) as well as a number of televised interviews, reviews and performances.
While not quite out of his teens, Michael’s love for music has afforded him the opportunity to travel to many beautiful and exciting places all over the world such as Paris, France; London and Brighton, UK; Istanbul, Turkey; The Netherlands; Santiago, Chile; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Taipei, Taiwan, and Canada.