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Nathan Hubbard’s new normal

Jazz and hip-hop are two very distinct worlds

Jazz meets hip-hop and rock in Nathan Hubbard’s drumsticks.
Jazz meets hip-hop and rock in Nathan Hubbard’s drumsticks.

“I should say first and foremost, that I always just wanted to play music in general and I really didn’t have any barriers between genres,” says musician Nathan Hubbard. “The first two CDs I bought were Charlie Parker and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and the first rap I heard was Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. As a kid, I didn’t really make those distinctions.”

Perhaps having grown up with such an open mind can account for Hubbard’s latest accomplishment: a double win at the San Diego Music Awards — “Best Jazz Album” for This Stream featuring a trio with Harley Magsino and Kevin Jones; and a win in the “Best Hip-Hop” category, for The Bully Pulpit, a new release by the cooperative group Parker Meridien which combines Jack King and John Rieder.

Jazz and hip-hop are two very distinct worlds, and I was curious how Hubbard is able to navigate that terrain. “I just like music. I listened to my parent’s records, and my older brother was giving me music. I appreciate all of these different things. Some people think of me as a jazz drummer, but I have classical training, and I’ve been making recordings and beats all of my life. But I don’t want to just dabble, both jazz and hip-hop require a lot of discipline and a lot of study and work to make it happen.”

Hubbard also plays in rock groups and often earns a living doing musical theater. Is there anything he wouldn’t touch? “Well, you wouldn’t see me playing disco, for instance. It’s not that I don’t appreciate dance music, but it’s not something I know well enough to do. But hip-hop and jazz share more than you might think. There’s a lot of common history, and I think you can pretty easily go back and forth. One hand, you have Chuck D from Public Enemy mentioning John Coltrane in one of his lines. It can be specific, too, like someone sampling a Roy Ayers or Gary Burton album from the seventies. So there’s a shared knowledge, and in each situation, digging deeper into those specifics is the key. That’s been a major part of how Parker Meridien makes music.”

How is he spending his time in the pandemic?

“I’ve been recording a lot of music. I make tracks, then send them to people and have them send me tracks. I’ve been trying to use the time to reach out to people that maybe I haven’t worked with before because of physical distance. I’ve also been working with a singer in town and we’ve been writing music together, and I’m working on an octet record for horns and rhythm section. And I’ve been trying to keep my three kids occupied without going out too much like we would in a normal summer. My kids are used to me putting on my nice shoes after dinner and going off to play music somewhere.”

What does he miss most about playing live?

“I don’t know if I could even sum that up. It’s clear that I love performing. It’s a physical thing and a mental thing. I think the lack of playing gigs has made me realize that it’s kind of an addiction in a way. After a while you realize you’re willing to do almost anything to keep playing. I’ve always thought of myself as a night person, and I tend to miss that the most.”

What’s the new normal for you now?

“We just packed it in. We stay close to home, we’re trying to keep it mellow and stay out of harm’s way. It’s a totally new challenge.”

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Jazz meets hip-hop and rock in Nathan Hubbard’s drumsticks.
Jazz meets hip-hop and rock in Nathan Hubbard’s drumsticks.

“I should say first and foremost, that I always just wanted to play music in general and I really didn’t have any barriers between genres,” says musician Nathan Hubbard. “The first two CDs I bought were Charlie Parker and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and the first rap I heard was Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. As a kid, I didn’t really make those distinctions.”

Perhaps having grown up with such an open mind can account for Hubbard’s latest accomplishment: a double win at the San Diego Music Awards — “Best Jazz Album” for This Stream featuring a trio with Harley Magsino and Kevin Jones; and a win in the “Best Hip-Hop” category, for The Bully Pulpit, a new release by the cooperative group Parker Meridien which combines Jack King and John Rieder.

Jazz and hip-hop are two very distinct worlds, and I was curious how Hubbard is able to navigate that terrain. “I just like music. I listened to my parent’s records, and my older brother was giving me music. I appreciate all of these different things. Some people think of me as a jazz drummer, but I have classical training, and I’ve been making recordings and beats all of my life. But I don’t want to just dabble, both jazz and hip-hop require a lot of discipline and a lot of study and work to make it happen.”

Hubbard also plays in rock groups and often earns a living doing musical theater. Is there anything he wouldn’t touch? “Well, you wouldn’t see me playing disco, for instance. It’s not that I don’t appreciate dance music, but it’s not something I know well enough to do. But hip-hop and jazz share more than you might think. There’s a lot of common history, and I think you can pretty easily go back and forth. One hand, you have Chuck D from Public Enemy mentioning John Coltrane in one of his lines. It can be specific, too, like someone sampling a Roy Ayers or Gary Burton album from the seventies. So there’s a shared knowledge, and in each situation, digging deeper into those specifics is the key. That’s been a major part of how Parker Meridien makes music.”

How is he spending his time in the pandemic?

“I’ve been recording a lot of music. I make tracks, then send them to people and have them send me tracks. I’ve been trying to use the time to reach out to people that maybe I haven’t worked with before because of physical distance. I’ve also been working with a singer in town and we’ve been writing music together, and I’m working on an octet record for horns and rhythm section. And I’ve been trying to keep my three kids occupied without going out too much like we would in a normal summer. My kids are used to me putting on my nice shoes after dinner and going off to play music somewhere.”

What does he miss most about playing live?

“I don’t know if I could even sum that up. It’s clear that I love performing. It’s a physical thing and a mental thing. I think the lack of playing gigs has made me realize that it’s kind of an addiction in a way. After a while you realize you’re willing to do almost anything to keep playing. I’ve always thought of myself as a night person, and I tend to miss that the most.”

What’s the new normal for you now?

“We just packed it in. We stay close to home, we’re trying to keep it mellow and stay out of harm’s way. It’s a totally new challenge.”

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