Like any other venerable tradition, jazz welcomes the occasional shake-up. With hip-hop inspired rhythms, lush chords, and a singular sense of style, Grammy Best New Artist nominated jazz duo DOMi & JD BECK are the latest act to combine twenty-first century energy with old school improvisation. Supporting their highly acclaimed debut album NOT TiGHT, the duo brought virtuoso technique, accessible melodies, and an impish sense of humor to their first-ever show in Austin.
Surrounding themselves with cherry blossoms, foliage, and grass, DOMi and BECK took the stage in pink sweats for her and overalls for him. Doubling on piano and key-bass, DOMi took the melody of “WHATUP” for a rollicking ride, as BECK played his kit like a human EDM drum machine. “This is cool,” remarked the drummer afterward. “Oddly intimate, though. But cool.” The duo then bopped their way through “the first song we ever released – the irresistibly funky, popwise “SMiLE,” with its recognizable hook.
“What the f–k is up, Austin?” DOMi smiled. “I always wanted to curse on TV!” That was a heads-up for the brisk “Bowling,” with the pair trading vocals in place for co-writer Thundercat, who sings it on NOT TiGHT. DOMi really showed off her chops on this tune, ripping out a sparkling piano solo while still keeping the bass keys roiling. The record’s title track followed, switching between minimalist atmosphere and barnburning workouts. “This is the first song we ever wrote together,” noted BECK before they started. “So that means it’s the worst – enjoy!” Given the skill on display and the crowd’s appreciation, clearly there’s no “worst” in the band catalog.
Another early tune, “U Don’t Have to Rob Me” related the true story of a near mugging with humor and a skittering arrangement like an electronic track translated to organic technique. The duo explained that jazz legend and ACL alumnus Herbie Hancock performed on the next song, “but he’s not here.” DOMi and BECK performed the rich, luminous “Moon” perfectly fine on their own. The pair then took two of their tribute tunes – “Duke,” a nod to jazz funk icon George Duke, and “Space Mountain,” about the titular Disney ride – and made them into a medley, one that particularly highlighted BECK’s rhythm mastery and DOMI’s speed-demon chops.
For the last song, BECK explained “DOMI’s gonna play something pretty, then the actual song starts,” with his partner adding “The actual song is called ‘You Can Sniff My Butt.’” In reality a medley of the album’s “Thank U” and “Sniff,” the tune did indeed begin with lush chords from DOMi, before BECK’s traps and her synth bass kicked the music into high gear. It was an epic finish to an excellent show, one for which the audience showed a deep and loud appreciation. It’ll make a cool episode of your favorite music television show, and we hope you tune in this fall to your local PBS station.