On a recent brisk Wednesday night, The Midnight Hour traveled to snowy Denver, CO, to grace us with their warming funky-soul and jazzy vibes for a one-of-a-kind live show. Hailing from Los Angeles, The Midnight Hour is a band comprised of founding members Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammed, two profound Hip Hop producers and composers with mass influence on all walks of life for the past few decades. Touring with them is an 8-piece orchestra, with lead singers Loren Oden and Angela Muñoz, Jack Waterson on the guitar, Malachi Morehead on the drums, and a two-man horn piece that blew us away.
Presented by the Jazz is Dead movement, released by Linear Labs, The Midnight Hour is the fourth installment, and we were on hand when they brought their eclectic style to Globe Hall, a bar and music venue established in 2015, in a 100 year old building. It started off as a frosty night from the snowstorm leaving mushy, city brown piles of snow on the ground from the previous day, but the band withstood the low temperatures and guided us to another era with heated performances. The room mellowed out and transformed to a Harlem [of the West] Renaissance vibe mixed with a Black James Bond experience.
With songs on the album featured by Raphael Saadiq, Marsha Ambrosia, QuestLove, and Ladybug Mecca from “Digable Planets”, and more, it’s a sound that sets a high standard for musical depth, while successfully navigating an oversaturated industry of talented artists. Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammed coordinated a black and gold ensemble on stage, draped in a polished, dapper fashion; from their debonair velvet vests, to their irradiant tailored gold pants, Muhammed in swanky loafers, while Younge rocking vintage oxfords. All members had their own style, showing how unique and individual the band is, from their music style to the demographics of the members.
The band opened up with “Black Beacon” from their self-titled debut album, “The Midnight Hour”, a twenty track wanderlust retro infused feel with a progressive jazzy vibe sure to soothe your soul and take you away into the experimental world they create. “Black Beacon” made you feel like you were in a 70’s all Blaxploitation action movie, clearly showing why Adrian Younge was picked to do the “Black Dynamite” movie score. Filled with complex sounds, big horns and invigorating bass guitar riffs, The Midnight Hour successfully aimed to immerse you into their ode to the Harlem Renaissance.
Ali Shaheed Muhammed, formally from the iconic 80-90’s hip hop group, A Tribe Called Quest, and Adrian Younge, a quintessential producer of various Grammy-nominated projects, formed The Midnight Hour back in 2013. Though it was pushed to the side as the two were set to compose the 2016 Netflix and Marvel “Luke Cage” series score, the idea wouldn’t soon be forgotten. Reviving their work in 2018, they released their album using 40’s and 50’s original recording software, to make sure to give the audiophiles a more authentic sound to vibe to, dedicating their skills and intentions to providing quality music.
Adrian Younge is a self-taught musician of numerous instruments since the late 90’s, most known as a notable Jazz composer and music producer. He has worked with up-and-coming young artists like Gallant on his song “Strobe Light”, and Hip-Hop legends like Ghostface Killah on his “Twelve Reasons to Die” album. Younge’s work has been sampled by a multitude of artists from Jay Z to Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitled 06”. Friend and co-member, Muhammed, provides his Brooklyn native energy and old school Hip Hop mastery. As a former member of legendary ATCQ, and the late 90’s Grammy award winning group, Lucy Pearl, he is able to take his multitude of skills and freely immerses himself into this TMH project. Muhammed has released his solo album “Shaheedullah and Stereotypes” in 2004, and has been in the game since the late 80’s, from being a house DJ to an iconic producer of big hits today. When “Redneph in B Minor” was performed, it exhibited the duo’s musical caliber and matured sound, perfectly mashing their sounds together to brand a jazzy hip-hop soul infused masterpiece.
Contributing an edgy sound to the band, Jack Waterson kills the guitar riffs like a true multi-generational rock star. His roots are in being a founding member of a 70’s punk-rock group called “Green on Red”. Younge, inspired by a two-decade long friendship with Waterson, and Waterson were able to take fragments of each others interest in contrasting genres all these years and blend it into this album. Part of the appeal of TMH is the unusual but, as pointed out, masterful blend of so much: ages, races, influences, backgrounds. This is music for the modern age firmly rooted in the glory of past musical epochs.
Angela Muñoz is a 17 year old prodigy with a mesmerizing, bellowing, big voice that commands the room’s attention by effortlessly belting out a single note. After getting TMH’s attention by submitting a song she wrote at age 14, she is today a new songbird for the new generation, here to conquer the scene. Reminiscent of the late Amy Winehouse, mixed with a strong influence from Guns N Roses, this songstress gave the room a burst of chills with her spellbinding vocals. Captivating the audience by showcasing her expansive range, she flawlessly conveys the emotions of her performance of “Bitc*es do Voodoo”, her single that was added to the album, an ode that seems to be about an old crush who opted for a different girl, which is a heartache most have experienced at one point of our lives; the song, she told us, is actually about her brother and the girl he fell for. Muñoz was selected to be a member of the band when she shot her shot and sent her music to them via Instagram;they recognized what would set her apart from other singers as a legend in the making.
The melodic drums and bass guitar bring us back to life as “There Is No Greater Love” is introduced, bringing Loren Oden to the stage, blessing us with his euphonious voice full of passion and soul. Oden’s sultry and classic style adds a soothing flow while immersing us into each song he touched. Also based in L.A. with a musically inclined family, he has been in the industry as a background singer for greats like Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu. A longtime friend of Shaheed and Younge, he has since worked with them both when he supplied his vocals to the Netflix series “Luke Cage” and the 2009 film “Black Dynamite”. As a lead singer on a majority of the The Midnight Hour project, he performs “Questions”, which fans have proclaimed has a Brazilian undertone, is originally sung by CeeLo Green, but Oden surely makes his own. The band continues to rock the house and Oden performs “Harmony”, a song about being in a serendipitous love, that maintains but also reignites the romantic side of music that some of us have grew up on and long for. Whenever Muñoz and Oden bring their strong vocals to the stage together, they compliment each others voices and become a harmonious powerhouse duo, giving incredible presence.
The take-away from the show, which was both impressive and stood out, was the fact that the band was able to engage and connect with their audience in such a genuine manner. Between their song “Feel Alive”, featured on Ava Duvernay’s Netflix short-series “When They See Us” about the exonerated Central Park Five, and touring throughout the U.K. and U.S., The Midnight Hour has been on a roll of achieving greatness and quickly becoming a household name. Each member switches instruments, showcasing their array of talents and coordination with each other as a unit, from the keyboard to the drums, transitioning with ease. The two-man horn set had their solo moments shining through, along with Malachi spotlighting his solid drumming style, both firing the crowd up.
Younge took a moment to engage by unexpectedly stepping off the stage and maneuvering through the crowd while jamming on his guitar to heavy Rock and Roll Blues. Muhammad and Younge took the time to speak to the crowd, giving a shout out to the late Phife Dawg with a short “What’s the Scenario” rendition, additionally introducing their visions for the future as artists and as a collective. The way they all rocked the show in unison, smiles, and hugs, it was apparent they’re a family that’s unique in the way that each member is also individually and artistically different. From a meet-and-greet at the end of the show, where the fans got to interact with the members intimately one-on-one, to a friendly farewell on stage by the members banding arm in arm in a line facing the crowd giving the fans encouraging words to leave the concert with something to remember, Muhammad says, “Keep the faith, keep strong, and know that everything will be better” as a fond adieu. If you haven’t experienced The Midnight Hour yet, there’s a handful of cities left in the last leg of their tour, so hurry and get on this new wavelength and check out their album; it won’t disappoint.
All images by De La Vaca