The keyboard-and-drum duo DOMi and JD Beck don’t sound like anyone else in jazz — or any other genre, for that matter.
Not Tight, their smirkingly titled debut album on Blue Note Records, sounds at times like you’ve been dropped inside a video game on peyote, transported to a Holiday Inn lounge or ushered back to a ‘90s rave in London.
To drummer JD Beck, it’s all one and the same.
“We want to change people’s perspectives on what good music is,” says the 19-year-old Beck, who grew up in Allen. “In 20 years, we want the next generation to still be listening to the album and taking new things away from it.”
Pretty brash words from a musician who wasn’t even alive 20 years ago. But the music industry is taking him and his bandmate absolutely seriously.
Beck and 22-year-old keyboardist Domitille “DOMi” Degalle have already recorded with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg and Anderson .Paak, who signed the duo and landed them a deal with the prestigious Blue Note label.
On July 18, Paak performed with the pair on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to promote Not Tight, which came out last Friday. And The New York Times breathlessly proclaimed the duo “so young and virtuosic that it feels as if they must be kidding you.”
The title of the Times story: “Who Are These Kids And What Are They Doing To Jazz?”
Beck grew up the youngest of seven kids in a blended family. He started out on piano, but music didn’t really click for him until he switched to drums, enrolled in a School of Rock course and began obsessing over Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy.
By 11, he was gigging around Deep Ellum with his parents, Perry and Ann Beck, at his side. After playing an open jam at the Prophet Bar with Erykah Badu’s keyboardist, RC Williams, the pint-size drummer sparked a friendship with other local heavyweights: Badu producer Jamal “JaBorn” Cantero, Snarky Puppy drummer Robert “Sput” Searight and Badu’s drummer, Cleon Edwards, all of whom helped Beck hone his hyperkinetic style.
After playing just about every bar and pizza joint in Deep Ellum, Beck landed a spot at SXSW, signed a deal with a cymbal company and got invited to the annual NAMM music convention in Los Angeles. It was there, in 2018, he met DOMi, a French-born keyboard wiz and Berklee College of Music student who, like Beck, had begun playing practically before she’d learned to tie her shoes.
Her first big influence was the Pat Metheny Group, but she could also shred the keyboard like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson with a zippy style that fit Beck’s perfectly.
Yet their initial meeting was a near-disaster. Thrown together in a booth to perform for an in-ear monitor headphone company, the two sounded ghastly, since neither had used the devices before.
“We could see the inner pain in each other’s face,” Beck says, talking by phone from the green room of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts in Washington, D.C.
“It was, like, really bad,” DOMi interrupts. “But we were laughing the whole time.”
Interviewing her and Beck together is like interviewing one person as they constantly finish each other’s sentences.
“As bad as it was,” she continues, “I was thinking, ‘He’s killing on drums … I want to play more with him!’
So they jammed later that day and Beck invited her to Dallas to perform with him at Erykah Badu’s annual birthday concert at the Bomb Factory. While getting to know each other in Dallas, DOMi and Beck wrote the title track to Not Tight and decided to form a duo.
Within months, their Instagram page began to blow up as they played show after show in Deep Ellum.
“I grew up in France only playing swing and modern jazz, so it was really cool to come to Dallas where everybody was playing every night and playing everything but jazz. I was like, ‘Finally! Some fresh [expletive].”
But the bloom was off the rose when people in Dallas and elsewhere kept saying they were too young to be taken seriously.
“You know what? That made us stronger,” she says. “It made us want to practice and play better and say ‘[Expletive] you! I’m going to prove you wrong.’ "
Before long, they got noticed by .Paak, the Grammy-winning singer-rapper-producer who’s also half of Silk Sonic with Bruno Mars. He signed Beck and DOMi to his Blue Note-affiliated label and encouraged them to record with guest musicians like Snoop and Busta Rhymes (“Pilot”), bass prodigy Thundercat (“Bowling”) and Herbie Hancock (“Moon”).
The 82-year-old keyboard legend even invited the duo to the Hollywood Bowl to perform with him on his 1973 classic “Chameleon.”
“He’s one of the greatest jazz musicians ever, and that’s the No. 1 song you learn as a kid, so we were nervous as [expletive],” Beck says.
They also took some hesitant first steps as vocalists, singing on six of the album’s 15 songs. Though they’re instrumentalists first and foremost, they also know they live in a world dominated by voice-based music.
“When we release an instrumental song, some people are like, ‘That’s not a song. There’s no singing,’” DOMi says. “But then when we really take a chance and sing, other people are mad and say, ‘Why are they singing?’”
With the release of Not Tight, DOMi and Beck will spend much of the summer playing jazz festivals around U.S. and Europe before launching their own tour. When they’re not on the road or recording in L.A., they both live in the suburbs north of Dallas.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Beck says of touring. “Hopefully, we don’t get booed off the stage.”
In that unlikely event, he can always seek solace in his two biggest fans: Mom and Dad.
The proud parents recently got tattoos to mark the release of their son’s album — the words “Not Tight” on their right arms and “Smile,” the album’s first single, on their left arms. JD’s 82-year-old grandmother also got inked with a “Smile” design.
“After all the years of taking him down to play in Deep Ellum on weeknights until 2 a.m., we felt a big investment in this project as well,” Perry Beck says.
Recognizing JD’s talent at an early age, Perry and Ann enrolled him in a private virtual schools starting in fifth grade so he’d have more flexibility to pursue music. He graduated from high school online in 2020.
“It was a difficult decision for us to take such a non-traditional path with him — online classes and late nights in bars, playing with adults,” Perry says.
“But to see what he’s done with the opportunities he’s been given makes it seem like we made the right decisions.”