Electro-Jazz / Free Jazz / Modern Jazz

Fans eagerly await the debut album of young jazz virtuosos DOMi & JD Beck

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SMiLE by DOMi & JD Beck

Written by: Clint Hoekstra

While they’ve only released a handful of songs mostly in short, meme-like format, jazz duo Domi & JD Beck have been coming up fast over the last few years. Their fans have avidly awaited their full-length album since before the pandemic began, and they’ve now finally graced their audience with a taste of what that will include.

The duo signed to Anderson .Paak’s label APESHIT Records only weeks ago, and have spent the past couple of years touring with the likes of Thundercat, .Paak, and quilted jazz bass virtuoso Mononeon. 

This first track, “SMiLE,” dropped with a video directed by .Paak and featuring Thundercat, Mac DeMarco, and a variety of other big names. DeMarco portrays a crotchety old pianist who shares a house with Domi and JD. The duo spends the duration of the video trying to cheer up the old man with games and crafts (their SCRABBLE board reads “RICH BITCH SLAMS PUSSY), eventually hosting a dinner party for his birthday.

The whole video is shot in super warm tones, reminiscent of Paak’s other recent material, Silk Sonic, who has shown a clear aim for the ’70s feel in all of their output.

The song itself starts exactly as a Domi and JD Beck fan would expect: a tight Dilla-style hip hop drumbeat snaps in along with a bubbly, simple synth melody. Beck is renowned for his control over the push and pulls of tempo using kick and hi-hat displacement, and the introductory beat couldn’t act as a more perfect illustration.

Hiding under the drums and synth, barely audible in some parts of the mix, is a poppy, staccato bassline that I can almost guarantee is played by Thundercat. His particular finger-plucked style and addition of sub-bass tones doubling each stroke make him recognizable after only a few notes. About halfway through the song, the leading synth tone gets soft and airy, like a Herbie Hancock riff if he’d done the whole thing with only two fingers. This is followed by a brief break where you can really hear the syrupy thick compression oozing over. White noise floods the mix momentarily, leading into a barrage of Beck’s half-swung breakbeats that have captured so much jazz world’s attention in recent years.

Domi’s keys float over the breakbeats like Chick Corea on whippets, existing somewhere between the drunk straight time of the prior section and the swinging snare fills accompanying her. Ending on a soft, unaccompanied major chord, Domi’s Nord synth tone perfectly crafts what feels like an audible smile.

The epilogue of the video features a sample from another of their new songs, and I can personally say I’m now even more stoked for the full-length album to arrive. I have a soft spot for the lazy, relaxed hip-hop beats Beck has been producing as of late, and from the sound of it, Thundercat’s bass will make more appearances throughout the album.

Domi and JD have yet to announce when exactly this LP will finally hit the streaming services, so we may still have to wait a while. However, now that they’re on Apeshit Records, we can expect a steady flow of singles and music videos to come from these two soon.

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