A student of late jazz bassist Ray Brown, Detroit native Karriem Riggins is best known as a jazz drummer and Hip-Hop producer for artists like Common, Slum Village, Talib Kweli, and The Roots. However, it is the feats for which he is lesser-known that make him one of Hip-Hop’s best kept secrets.
Legend has it that it was Riggins who discovered the Bobby Caldwell sample, “Open Your Eyes”, which later became the J. Dilla produced classic song, “The Light”, from Common’s album, Like Water for Chocolate. It was, in fact, Riggins who completed The Shining, J. Dilla’s final album, which, at the time of his death, was only 75 percent complete.
Now preparing to release his solo debut, Alone Together, set for an October 23 release on Stones Throw Records, Riggins will reaffirm his position as one of Hip-Hop’s best producers with a 34-track instrumental journey through nearly every moment that has influenced his career thus far. Moments like collaborating with former Beatle Paul McCartney in concert and on Kisses on the Bottom, McCartney’s first studio release in five years. But largely, the project was inspired by much of the music he was creating while living in Los Angeles, and also by the love of his son and family.
Now residing again in his native Detroit, Riggins is back where it all began. “I feel like I can really breath and stay inspired here, and I have room to set up my lab and be creative,” he says. This is the rationale behind the title Alone Together, taken from a jazz standard written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz that begin with the words, “Alone together, above the crowd.”
Songs on Alone Together range from 14 seconds to a little over three minutes, and are the essence of man vs. machine. Where Riggins utilizes “beat” machines deviating from his classical drum training, “Coming back to the machines, I feel like I can really express myself,” Riggins says. “This is the way that I express my rhythms.” On “J Dilla the Greatest,” his tools are a Gretsch drum kit, the Fender Rhodes, and an MPC3000.
“You don’t have to put yourself in a box…there’s so many different ways to go,” Riggins says.
Having toured with Grammy Award winner Diana Krall, and collaborated with jazz greats like Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson, Donald Byrd, and Ron Carter, Riggins says, “I need the balance,” of working with the likes of Krall and McCartney. He says he also needs to be able to go back to the studio and create Hip-Hop. “Without that, I couldn’t be who I am.”
For more information on Karriem Riggins’ new album Alone Together, visit www.StonesThrow.com.