Article written by: Sidney Madden from NPR Music
Tiny Desk concerts usually take place in the afternoon.
It might come as a surprise for a 1990s-era hip-hop artist and composer to deliver a sultry set of jazz fusion — one that seems better suited for midnight hours in a smoky club than late afternoon in a newsroom office — but keep in mind, the Tiny Desk itself was a surprise at its inception.
After years of produced releases and jam sessions, A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and composer Adrian Younge formed The Midnight Hour in 2018 and released a 20-track album of the same name that bathes fans in an elixir of hip-hop, R&B and jazz.
For the new band’s Tiny Desk, the talented pair of impresarios — Younge stationed behind the keys with an undone satin bow tie and vaguely opaque glasses, Muhammad with a blue pinstriped suit and deep violet Fender guitar — turned their concert into a family affair, leading a six-piece band with interchanging vocalists through a stirring four-song set.
The session started with “Black Beacon,” a cut cool enough to personify the stride of a 1920s speakeasy boss, then jumped to a bluesy, ’70s style ballad “There is No Greater Love.” Less than 10 minutes later, Younge aimed the mic at 16-year-old Angela Muñoz, whose syllables were aided by a wispy snare as she sang with wisdom beyond her years. The group ended with the hopeful and key-heavy “Mission.”
Younge and Muhammad first teamed up in 2013 on a Souls of Mischief album, and later joined forces to soundtrack Marvel’s Luke Cage series. Based on the success of the Netflix series and the genre-hopping magic conjured at this Tiny Desk, it’s clear why this new outfit deserves its own moment in the limelight.
- “Black Beacon”
- “There is No Greater Love” feat. Loren Oden and Saudia Mills
- “Bitches Do Voodoo” feat. Angela Muñoz
Adrian Younge (keys), Ali Shaheed Muhammad (bass), Jack Waterson (guitar), David Henderson (drums), Stephanie Yu (violin), Bryan Hernandez-Luch (violin), DeAndre Shaifer (trumpet), Jordan Pettay (saxophone)
Producers: Abby O’Neill, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Bronson Arcuri, Maia Stern, Khun Minn Ohn; Production Assistants: Catherine Zhang, Téa Mottolese; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.