The Midnight Hour with Greg GreaseDec 03, 2018
On December 2nd I had the pleasure of seeing The Midnight Hour at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. The group, formed by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Mahammad and Adrian Younge in 2018, brings forward, new age jazz talent to an age old genre.
The opening act was Minneapolis-based rapper Greg Grease, joined on stage by DJ JustNine and Proper-T. With strong production and background, his verses packed both punch and emotion, flowing smoothly in a jazzy, skillful cadence. The majority of the songs were defiant, referencing systems of oppression and the struggle growing up surrounded by racism. Intense verses and presence on stage encouraged his seated audience to move with him, getting us all up out of our seats and joining in on the hooks. Many of the tracks from his new album, Down So Long, had me jamming out, enticed by the funk and R&B elements. His accompaniment on keys, Proper-T, played with raw emotion and even treated us to a solo set, showing off impressive vocals. Meanwhile, DJ JustNine exemplified incredible technical ability on the turntables, cooking up groovy, complex beats.
After the opener The Midnight Hour took the stage. In an intimate setting, the main act delivered bass-heavy, groovy tunes with incredible musical precision. Composer Adrian Younge, decked out in a velvet sport coat and St. Laurent scarf exuded confidence on the keys while Ali Shaheed Mahammad held the group down in cool composure. The accompanying instruments, including a violin and viola, were manned by extremely talented jazz professionals, and the audience got to have a taste of each. Heart-racing drum solos and soulful saxophone licks added depth to the front men on the bass and keys. The audience was also spoiled with vocals from Loren Odin. I found it so impressive that even with so many differing sounds and styles, the group pulled it together so well. One could tell they were having the time of their lives up there playing for us, a love for the genre only strengthened by the innovative additions to their set. Most amusing to watch was the guitarist of the band, Jack Waterson. His goofy interactions with each of the members kept me giggling throughout the set, and he solidified my appreciation by killing each solo he played.
The Midnight Hour focuses on the style of the Harlem Renaissance, an explosion of black pride and expression. In their self-titled debut album, many of their songs revolve around living in a racially charged world, yet the musicians did a wonderful job of promoting inclusivity and familiarity with their audience. Younge joked at one point during the night that we were all just hanging out in a living room together, given the personal setting that the Cedar provided for a late night show. In seductive, dim lighting, each performer shone through in both personality and talent but came together in one cohesive wall of sound. One would think they have been playing together for a lifetime. The energy that the musicians brought to the stage was contagious, even to a seated crowd on a cold Sunday night. A set that was incredibly varied in style, including riffs reminiscent of old school hip-hop, mixed in jazz, blues, funk and R&B sounds. The group ended the night with a strong track from their new musical score from the TV show Luke Cage. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a December evening than being wrapped up in the smooth, soulful tones of The Midnight Hour. Special thanks to the Cedar Cultural Center for continuing to bring amazing, refreshing acts to our community.