Dinner Party - Terrace Martin

You’re seated at a large circular table. The sound of genuine laughter, the smell of marijuana smoke, and the sight of generational talents fills the room around you. It’s a warm studio night as Herbie Hancock chats with Cordae, and Snoop Dogg trades bars with Buddy. As you look around, a handful of outstanding artists shed their Grammy nominations and grand tour plans to share music, wisdom, and love over jazz and hip-hop beats. 

This is how I imagine a Dinner Party with, well, “Dinner Party,” a supergroup formed this year by prominent jazz musicians and producers Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington, 9th Wonder, and Robert Glasper. They released their self-titled debut album in July to much critical acclaim. The group, however, decided their own talent wasn’t quite enough. They invited artists of all kinds to feature on the smooth, silky beats, and re-released the album with new features on October 9th, calling it Dinner Party: Dessert. The project is an impressive display of three generations worth of talent. From the 80-year-old jazz legend in Herbie Hancock to the bright young stars that are Buddy and Cordae, musical mastermind Terrace Martin connects old, new, and extraordinary for an album like no other. 

It all started on Robert Glasper’s R+R=NOW tour, where Martin and Glasper shared their desires to create a new group. It would be centered in their expertise of jazz, soul, and funk, yet take on a more modern, hip-hop tone. For this, the duo recruited Kamasi Washington and Patrick Douthit, the prolific hip-hop producer commonly known as 9th Wonder. 

The four have worked together before on albums such as Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning To Pimp a Butterfly, but it was time for something new and definitively their own. These four outstanding musicians came together to form one of the smartest and smoothest groups there is, each contributing something unique to the squad. 

 

Dinner Party - Terrace Martin
Terrace Martin, Herbie Hancock, Thundercat, Vinnie Colaitu (from left to right)

Kamasi Washington is known for his incredible abilities on saxophone, having played with musicians from Wayne Shorter to Lauryn Hill. The Los Angeles artist has three excellent studio albums under his belt including the soundtrack to the Michelle Obama’s documentary Becoming.

Robert Glasper is iconic on the keyboard and can produce piano riffs for any genre. The three-time Grammy winner has worked on powerful projects like Kanye West’s Late Registration and even covered songs by Radiohead. He’s traveled and toured the globe, reflected by his incomparable versatility.

9th Wonder is a legend in hip-hop and has been behind the scenes with Nas, Jay-Z, Drake and many more. He also teaches as a professor at Duke University, sharing his expertise with anyone willing to listen. From albums to lectures, everyone can learn something from 9th Wonder.

Finally, the glue that is Terrace Martin brings everyone together. His creative capabilities are unmatched, and his charisma causes instant collaborations. He can play, produce, and push artists to their absolute best. From Warren G to Travis Scott, Johnny cash to Alt-J, Terrace will work with anyone with heart and hard work. Unsurprisingly, Dinner Party is no different.

 

The pivotal recording session came as 2019 was winding down. At Chalice Studios in Los Angeles, the group gathered their collective greatness, and played. What resulted is the smooth and sweet seven-song project named after their own group, Dinner Party. With a little help from Chicago producer Phoelix the album is an eclectic combination rooted in jazz, soul, and hip-hop that flows for 23 minutes with a simple grace. Saxophones sing the scales while vocalists calmly swing, but something still feels missing over the light percussive drums. To make the most of their vision, Dinner Party had to extend some invites. 

RSVPs came back from a handful of inspiring and aspiring artists. Rappers like Rapsody, Buddy, and Cordae, and lyricists such as Malaya and Tarriona Tank Ball (from Tank and the Bangas) brought power to the project. This is not just any handful of artists, either. This is a group of young, outspoken and self-defined musicians who have proven their ability to push past the mainstream. Remember, Dinner Party is rooted in old styles, but its creativity is made for the next generation. 

The songs of the original album were written over, transformed, and upgraded into Dinner Party: Dessert. The reimagined project has the same soft, swirling aesthetic rooted in saxophone riffs and funky bass, yet an authentic hip-hop bounce seamlessly assimilates into its rhythm. The balance between established legends like Snoop Dogg and brand-new names like the 19-year-old Reuben Vincent attracts a wide audience. Jazz, hip-hop, and music fans everywhere should celebrate Dinner Party: Dessert, shedding judgements of genre, age, and fame in preference of pure talent. 

That’s not to say that talent is not diverse, however. Each song has a unique emotional energy, shaped by the artists that feature. Los Angeles rapper Buddy and the Charlotte, North Carolina native Reuben Vincent solemnly spit on “Sleepless Nights.” The youthful pair rides the calm, dreamy song, finding self-determination among the saxophone solos. 

 

Meanwhile, Michigan native Malaya hits high notes with power and passion on “Love You Bad.” The 23-year-old’s silky voice confronts an R&B bounce as Phoelix’s production elevates and envelops your heart. Passionate love spills over into the next track, where Tarionna Tank Ball shares stories of serendipity on “From My Heart And My Soul.” Armed with a funky bass and finely-tuned talkbox, Dinner Party surrounds you with welcome and warmth. All the while, Ball’s slam-poetry background shines, and she rattles off swift and sweet stanzas. 

The next track, “First Responders,” has all the signature sounds of Dinner Party. Like harmonized heaven, Philadelphia singer and songwriter Bilal flexes his vocal talent and fills the jazzy beat. Right by his side is Top-Dawg-Entertainment’s Punch, who raps over the rolling beat with reflection and realism. The righteous bars continue on the next song, “The Mighty Tree,” as North Carolina’s Rapsody unapologetically assaults the beat with intricate metaphors. She is joined by jazz-legend Herbie Hancock, who taunts his endless talent and kills on the keys.

 

Herbie and Rapody are followed by “Freeze Tag,” which features the up-and-coming Cordae. The 23-year-old uncovers the fakeness of fame and contemplates his bright future over the spirited production. Don’t be fooled by the feel-good groove, however, “Freeze Tag” takes on serious topics like police brutality and the Black experience. Finally, the lofi “LUV U,” caps off the album with a mellow myriad of instruments. G-funk genius Snoop Dogg lusts for true love as Los Angeles angel Alex Isley pleads with her poetry. The track brings the project to a close, resolving the soft, smooth sounds into silence. 

For all twenty minutes of its tracklist, Dinner Party: Dessert is a relaxing ride through the land of jazz-hip-hop fusion. Elements of funk and soul creep in from the corners, yet, the album itself is defined only by the artists involved. It spans generations, genres, and Grammy recognition to unite these unique voices and call for justice, love, and no more judgment. 

An album like this is made for more than just a profit. It enlightens both artist and audience, breaching conventions and comfort zones for the sake of experimentation. It teaches young talent to express themselves and established musicians to try something new. Even for the audience, it opens hearts and ears alike to endless musical possibilities. So, whether you’re at the jazz club, a hip-hop concert, or just having guests in your home, put on Dinner Party: Dessert, it’ll be a treat for anyone who tunes in.