by Josh Gross
Clad in pajama pants, a thick-hooded sweatshirt and a beard for the ages, Bay Area hip-hop producer Ben Durazzo broke it down from the stage at Red Room Feb. 9.
"We were in Seattle last night to open for Gift of Gab and we drove here right after that," he said. "I haven't slept yet, so if I pass out on stage ... that's it."
He didn't pass out. His performance swung completely the other direction.
Unlike most electronic artists, Durazzo forgoes prerecorded loops and beats. He assigns drum sounds and note samples that he makes to trigger pads and then plays them live like a piano. Durazzo gave a quick explanation to start the performance, but it wasn't until halfway through his first tune that it really kicked in to the audience what they were seeing.
The previously docile crowd moved toward the stage, heads bobbing in rapt interest to the crisp and snappy '90s-style beats and sparse hits of samples from old jazz and R&B records.
"He's doing that live? That's one talented mother-fucker," an audience member gasped.
The complex fingerings and drum-line precision were rare and all the more impressive considering that Durazzo said he picked up this manner of sampling without any piano background.
Durazzo has been on permanent tour for more than a year, trucking along different rappers to fill out the act. For this show, he had a trio of Cali-area emcees who had never seen snow before.
"Seriously, these are some hot beats for how cold it is outside," said J.B. Nimble.
The crowd seemed to agree.
If you weren't there, don't worry, because Boise Weekly caught the show on tape for a future episode of Scenes From a Scene, our continuing video series on local music happenings.