DOMi & JD BECK’s Youth Movement

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“We don’t really call ourselves jazz or any other type of players,” said DOMi, right, of the music she makes with JD BECK. “We’re just musicians.”

(Photo: Tehillah De Castro)

DOMi & JD BECK had an auspicious record release gig for their debut album, NOT TiGHT. It was scheduled to drop on the last Friday of July, as the young keyboards-and-drums duo was on the bill for the inaugural Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley, with a headlining set by Dinner Party featuring Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington. The pair was on the marquee for the next day, too, along with the likes of Flying Lotus, Keyon Harrold and host Dave Chappelle.

But the fledgling duo wasn’t out of place on the Northern California Wine Country festival’s poster, since other participating artists such as rapper/pop culture icon Snoop Dogg and bass guitarist/bandleader Thundercat are showcased on NOT TiGHT. An NPR Tiny Desk concert and a performance on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live were also on the docket leading up to the debut, giving them further national exposure.

Through previous appearances at other festivals and concerts, 23-year-old DOMi (a.k.a. DOMi Louna, a.k.a. Domitille Degall) and 19-year-old BECK have already garnered considerable attention. At press time, a Zildjian LIVE! video from 2021 starring BECK and featuring DOMi had 2.5 million views. R&B vocalist/drummer/producer Anderson .Paak signed them to his new APESHIT label, which partnered with Blue Note Records to make their debut its first release.

“There is a thread that links all of the artists who’ve ever recorded for Blue Note: They’ve all studied and mastered the preceding fundamentals of the music and then applied that knowledge to pushing the boundaries of jazz,” wrote Don Was, president of Blue Note, in an email. “DOMi and JD are no exception, and they are boldly headed to where nobody’s gone before. … I have no idea where they’re gonna take things, but I’m dying to find out, and the ability to stir up that kind of curiosity and fascination is one of the hallmarks of great artistry.”

In a Zoom interview from BECK’s native Dallas, both musicians were in good spirits given the amount of interviews they’ve already handled. They use “DUMMY” and “DJ” as their screen names, displaying their trademark levity, and are already at a point in their creative partnership where they can seamlessly complete each other’s sentences.

An immediately noticeable characteristic of DOMi & JD BECK performance videos is the economy and simplicity of their musical concept without any loss of sonority. BECK uses a single cymbal and two toms, while DOMi favors a simple pair of keyboards and, more recently, a MIDI foot pedal unit.

“I think we’re just minimalists,” BECK said. “When it comes to me, I feel like I sound worse when I have more drums. There are so many possibilities with even just one drum.

“When I give myself all these other pieces, I feel like I’m trying too hard to utilize them. So if I had a lot of drums, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to stand my own playing,” he continued.

“Limiting options expands your creativity,” DOMi added. “So I like trying to be the most creative with only the tiny 49-key M-Audio keyboard. That’s nearly all I used for the album, because I don’t ever want to write on auto-pilot, write what I already know.”

The duo becomes a two members become a trio with DOMi handling bass duties on keyboard. “That came actually from the fact that in all my jazz ensembles, there would never be a bass player,” she said. “My brother also played piano. So he would be on the piano, and I would be on the Rhodes playing the bass lines. And then we would switch. And then I kept going, and I was, like, ‘I love this!’”

In a different section of the multiverse, the two would have switched roles: “My dad just really wanted me not to have a regular job and to do an artistic creative thing,” DOMi said. “And he loves music, so he built a drum set out of cans when I was 2.” She switched to a electric piano a year later. BECK, in turn, started with piano lessons at 5 before moving behind the kit.

DOMi’s musical background also contributes to her self-sufficient keyboarding style. Alternating between home schooling and music conservatories back in France, she studied classical and jazz before attending the Berklee College of Music on a Presidential Scholarship. “The classical definitely helps — playing Chopin and Rachmaninoff,” she reflected.

Milestones of BECK’s early musical journey occured on the bandstand. “A co-worker of my dad’s told him about Erykah Badu’s band having a jam session every Wednesday in Deep Ellum,” he recalled, referencing Dallas’ popular arts and entertainment district. “So when I was 10 or 11, I went up there to play drums with them and did that regularly.”

The initial teaming up of the two one-time child prodigies occurred at the 2018 NAMM Show. Drummer Robert “Sput” Searight of Snarky Puppy invited them to demo in-ear monitors by playing as a duo at one of the music product convention’s many booths. The noisy, cavernous setting was surreal, but the collaborative seed quickly sprouted.

“We went all the way to back to L.A. for an actual jam session that was completely outside of NAMM,” DOMi recounted, fondly looking back at the gathering that took place at The Mint, an 85-year-old music and comedy venue. “It was really chill, and that’s when we became friends.”

The composing phase of the partnership began during lockdown in Dallas, recording basic bedroom demos “through iPhone mics using MIDI sounds,” BECK said. Once they signed with .Paak, “We moved out to L.A. into his little space, and we had a tiny little room where we did the same thing as before but at a higher quality, like with real mics.”

NOT TiGHT’s special guests were mostly recorded live out West. Herbie Hancock, with whom the duo sat in with on “Chameleon” at the Hollywood Bowl in 2021, joined them at Larrabee Sound Studios in North Hollywood to guest on the kinetic “Moon.” The alternating fluttery and breezy “Two SHRiMPS” with Mac DeMarco was recorded at the alternative singer-songwriter’s house.

The two exceptions were MC Busta Rhymes’ contribution “PiLOT,” which also features Snoop Dogg and .Paak. “WOAH,” boasting Kurt Rosenwinkel’s expressive guitar lines, was also done asynchronously.

Dubbed Generation Z ambassadors between the worlds of jazz, hip-hop, R&B and electronic music traditions, DOMi and BECK create bridges between demographics and genres. Like newer schools of players, they’re as comfortable exploring late producer Dilla’s innovations as they are revisiting a standard such as “My Favorite Things.”

“I think most of the people we meet in person are younger kids who are around our age,” BECK said. “But we always get those comments and messages saying, ‘I’m a 50-year-old jazz player, and I love your shit,’” DOMi added. “And it always feels nice because we don’t want to put any [audience] limitation on our music. So we don’t really call ourselves jazz or any other type of players. We’re just musicians, and we want everybody to be able to listen and be, like, ‘Whoa, what is this?’” DB



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