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New Hyde Park Series Explores The Fusion Of Jazz And Hip-Hop

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 11, 2014 4:30PM

2014_12_hiphopandjazz.jpg When The Promontory opened earlier this year, it had already built a solid reputation for itself as a jazz club. However, the programming thus far has been a geographically appropriate mix of everything from the jazz we expected to neo-soul to house to disco.

Tonight marks the induction of a new monthly series for the venue, "The Genius of Jazz & Hip Hop," which will explore the contemporary relations between the two genres.

The first show will feature the series' curator David Boykin and his Expanse band, NoName Gypsy (who you've likely heard on Chance The Rapper's Acid Rap mixtape), James Woodley and DJ Ayana Contreras.

It's an idea that's simultaneously logical and challenging, so we decided to hop on the phone with Boykin to better understand his goals.

CHICAGOIST: Where did the idea for the series come from?

DAVID BOYKIN: I've been playing music since 1991 or so when I was 21 years old. I wanted to learn how to play jazz so that's where I started but I grew up and was a teenager in the 80s so I listened to a lot of hip-hop. Around 2004 or 2005 I started hearing [more hip-hop] and I wanted to dabble in it. I started collaborating with different MCs but didn't like the way it was working. I think the music was too much for a lot of MCs because they just wanted a simple loop and a simple beat, but in jazz I'm more accustomed to having the music swing and having it be more complex harmonically and having it change more because we're improvising all of the time. So there was just too much stuff going on. [laughs] But I've always been curious about fusions between the two.

C: I'm curious about what the format of the series will be. Will the performers be collaborating? Will it be more of a discussion?

DAVID BOYKIN: It will be performances by the different acts. My group will do a little jazz with some hip-hop lyricism infused in it.

C: Other than the back-to-back performances, how do you plan to show how jazz and hip-hop relate to each other?

DAVID BOYKIN: Mostly through the different artists that I select and their individual presentation. [The hip-hop artists] may sample heavily from jazz or they may actually play with jazz musicians. Things of that nature.

C: How did you choose the artists for this inaugural show?

DAVID BOYKIN: James Woodley is a young jazz drummer and a rapper and I knew him when he was a student. I was a teacher of his. I found NoName Gypsy and her music online.

C: The Promontory is a great place to hold shows like this because there's obviously a lot of jazz history in Hyde Park but there are also a lot of contemporary young rappers coming out of that area currently.

DAVID BOYKIN: I think the neighborhood is very friendly to jazz and hip-hop music. I think a lot of young people from Kenwood High School are well represented there.

It's not just about trying to do a mash-up musically. It's really more so about the audiences and subtly exposing them to music they might not go hear. There's a lot of people that listen to jazz that may not go see NoName Gypsy or James Woodley because it's labeled as rap music and vice versa. So it's about trying to broaden perspectives as well.

C: Is this an indefinitely ongoing series or do you have a number of installments in mind?

DAVID BOYKIN: We're going to start out with four shows, one on the second Thursday of each month.

C: Is there anything else that you're looking forward to with this first show or that will surprise people?

DAVID BOYKIN: I don't know if we'll be able to do this with the first show but there was talk of there being a piece where we all perform together at the end of the show. That would be a nice surprise if that happens.

Tickets to tonight's performance are $10. Doors open at 7 p.m. and music starts at 8 p.m. Details for "The Genius of Hip Hop & Jazz Vol. 2" have not been released yet.