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JD Beck and DOMi, the supersonic jazz duo headed to the Grammys

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JD Beck and DOMi, the Franco-American experimental jazz duo in the running at the Grammys./AFP
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Feb 03, 2023 - 06:44 AM

NEW YORK — With their musical dexterity and supersonic sound, JD Beck and DOMi have attracted major attention from artists ranging from Herbie Hancock to Bruno Mars, and now the jazz duo is in the hunt for Grammys glory.

To watch American drummer JD Beck and French keyboardist DOMi is to submit the senses to their overwhelming speed of execution, bewildering the eye as much as the ear.

“Speed is a technical resource allowing us, composers and musicians, to create a feeling and deliver an emotion,” the pair told AFP in writing (they wanted to speak in one voice).

“It’s equally as important as articulation, dynamics, time signature and tempo, for example,” they continued. “Those are all elements available to us so we can deliver our message as close as possible to what’s in our heads.”

Their music is the result of a fateful meeting between two talents.

As a pre-teen, Beck, now 19, began frequenting clubs in Dallas. Domitille Degalle, the 23-year-old known as DOMi, grew up in the French city of Nancy, before enrolling at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston at just 16 years old.

The duo’s work is not so much an expression of two instruments, but of a dialogue: “Our favorite thing is to bring each other something new and to surprise ourselves.”

“We’re constantly in the pursuit of innovation because as artists we have so many possibilities and paths we can explore.”

The artists are of a generation brought up in the era of streaming including YouTube, which offers an online musical world of virtually unlimited discovery.

But despite their voracious musical diet, they say that “jazz is and has always been our biggest musical influence because it’s based on improvisation, which is the biggest form of freedom for a musician.”

‘Pure artists’ 

Jazz’s imprint is evident on their debut album “Not Tight,” which came out in July.

But the album surpasses the constraints of genre, a work resolute in its experimentation that’s also steeped in hip-hop.

It’s an accessible album without the solo digressions of modern jazz, a sign of the duo’s commitment to reaching as many listeners as possible.

Like the work of bassist Thundercat — one of their influences who features on “Not Tight” — or the drummer and singer Anderson .Paak, who the young artists consider a mentor, the duo’s sound is rich, joyful and spontaneous.

That strikes a chord with fans but also their peers: JD Beck and DOMi are up for two Grammys this Sunday, including the prestigious Best New Artist award.

What does that mean to them?

“It would mean that someone definitely voted for us by mistake hahahaha,” they wrote.

“We never know which emotion will come out, but as long as it’s a strong feeling, we’re happy,” they said. “To us, there is nothing worse than a boring piece of art uncovering nothing out of someone’s mind or heart.”

“If we could choose, we would want our music to be so captivating that the listener has no other choice but to focus.”

Their originality first caught the ear of .Paak — himself a Grammy winner — whose label Apeshit produced “Not Tight” in partnership with the storied jazz label Blue Note Records.

From Snoop Dogg — who also makes an appearance on their album — to Ariana Grande, many artists have added their voices and talents to the creative swirl of the duo, who remain open to collaborations while keeping their musical DNA intact.

The percussionist Nate Werth, who has played with the duo a number of times, hailed them as “pure artists.”

“I feel like there’s like this element of pure raw expression, and fun and happiness, and just living in the moment, which is very much a part of this younger generation,” he said.

JD Beck and DOMi say they write everything together and neither have personal projects in the mix.

They said they compose without a “particular concept or intention.”

“We try to reproduce what’s in our heads!” they continued. “We try to make the best music we can according to our standards and if we’re happy with it, then it’s cool.”

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