Though his earnest love of jazz came through reading hip-hop liner notes, DJ and producer Freddie Joachim remembers his first exposure to the art form: Dave Brubeck’s Time In, an anomaly among his father’s records.
“It was probably one of the only jazz records in my dad’s collection,” Joachim recalls. “I listened to that one a lot.”
But the record wasn't really his introduction to jazz. As is often the case with hip-hop fanatics, Joachim’s fascination with jazz developed as he researched samples used as source material for his favorite beats. After reading those magic words in album credits -- “This song contains a sample of...” -- hip-hop groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul led him to names like Bob James, Freddie Hubbard and Ahmad Jamal, each of whom were sought after by producers to help create the joyful, carefree sound that came to define the late '80s / early '90s Native Tongues movement.
This Saturday, Joachim provides his blissed-out vibes as part of San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2016, set to unfold from Aug. 12–14 across 13 stages throughout downtown San Jose.
Joachim closes out the Fest's “Jazz Beyond” programming, which showcases jazz sounds that come into contact with electronic, hip-hop and world music. This year, performers include José James, Adrian Younge, Masego, and DJ Bobbito Garcia (formerly of the influential New York hip-hop radio show The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show).
After a full day of live music, Joachim's beats are a natural way to wind down. His tracks tend to be melodic and incredibly evocative, propelled by punchy bass lines and kick drums while lazy keys try their best to maintain an air of cool. The boom-bap is enough to nod your head, but the space that’s present elsewhere offers plenty of room for contemplation.
Rather than simply pressing play, Joachim adds a live element to his set by re-creating elements of his beats on stage. By stripping away and highlighting key portions of his compositions, or building beats from scratch, Joachim provides an intimate look at the creation of his music in a format that will be more interactive than a traditional DJ set. (Expect a similar approach from keyboard wizard Mark de Clive-Lowe, who performs alongside his wife, vocalist Nia Andrews, Friday night.)
"Even though I wasn’t initially a jazz listener, I think hip-hop broke me into digging deeper into other genres of music, especially past genres, whether it be jazz or soul records,” admits Joachim. Because he didn’t initially encounter jazz in the classroom, his connection to the art form shows the important role hip-hop has played in introducing jazz to younger audiences. As for San Jose Jazz’s choice to book artists who may not seem to be "jazz" at first glance -- last year featured a DJ set from A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad -- it shows a willingness to present to its audience the many faces, and entry points, that jazz has provided its listeners over the years.
This interplay is evident among other festival performers in the “Jazz Beyond” series. Contemporary crooner José James, who returns to San Jose after a set three years ago, is another hybrid example of jazz musicianship intermingling with more contemporary sounds, rhythms and influences. James’ discography includes three albums on heralded jazz label Blue Note, with his most recent collection a tribute to vocalist Billie Holiday. However, his 2008 debut The Dreamer included the single “Park Bench People,” a song originally performed by influential L.A. underground rap group Freestyle Fellowship.
Growing up in San Diego, Joachim recalls loving gangsta rap with his friends, but found little kinship when his interest grew to names like the Sound Providers, a local group and a key musical influence. (Their song “The Field,” built around a looped sample of “Angel Eyes” from the late jazz guitarist Jim Hall, was what pushed him into producing.) With the advent of the internet, he found more songs like “The Field,” then started creating his own beats. With his beats and mixes now scattered across the world online, Joachim has the same chance to provide that creative spark for others.
“There are a handful of kids that I feel like are the same as [I was] as a kid,” he says. “They’re slowly questioning why they listen to certain music, and maybe as they get older, it’ll unfold for them [as well].”
Freddie Joachim performs the night of Saturday, Aug. 13, at Cafe Stritch; his set starts at midnight. San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2016 runs Aug. 12–14 at various stages throughout downtown San Jose, and includes performances by the Funky Meters, Bobby Caldwell, Sergio Mendes, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Chico Freeman, Goapele, Melissa Aladana and Tifany Austin, among dozens of others. More details here.