Kris Bowers is one of the best young pianists around. Winner of the 2011 Thelonius Monk Competition, Bowers is a true innovator, combining jazz with hip hop, rock, and electronic music. His debut album, Heroes + Misfits, is constantly on my “Recently Played” on Spotify. Today, we talk about Bower’s solo piano cover of the Kendrick Lamar tune “Rigamortis” from Section.80. There are few things in this world that excite me as much as the joining of the worlds of jazz and hip hop. Bowers does not disappoint; he joins these worlds masterfully.
The video itself is compelling: a cool black-and-white vibe and an introductory sequence showing Bowers preparing the piano. Then Bowers begins playing the sampled riff from “Rigamortis,” which comes from Willie Jones III’s “The Thorn.” Then comes the captivation. Using the prepared piano sound to create a percussive drive, a hip-hop foundation is created for the rest of the piece. Using a looper pedal, Bowers stacks layers of sound to create the accompaniment for his eventual soaring piano solo, essentially producing this song on the spot. The virtuosity shown in the solo very much establishes Bowers as a serious player in the music world.
While the musical virtuosity and novel sound production methods make this video a good one, it is the musical syncretism that makes it a must-see. Bowers marries modern jazz with hip-hop with 20th century avant-garde prepared piano with electronic effects in order to produce this cover. He does it intelligently and tastefully and does this tune justice. I’m sure Kendrick would dig this (God, how I’m hoping for a K. Dot/Bowers collaboration…), and so would John Cage (20th century champion of prepared piano) and Willie Jones III. So take it in. If you’re a hip-hop fan, start calling yourself a jazz fan too, and vice versa.
Stay on the lookout for more artists like Bowers. We can never have enough of them.
Andrew Rodriguez is the writer and founder of the blog Are You Hip To This? He sometimes gets a little too excited when he hears a really dope song, or when eating a really savory burger. It’s the small things that keep him going.