The Twin Cities music scene has a new chart-topper in its ranks. The interdisciplinary jazz drummer and producer L.A. Buckner scored a number one record on the iTunes jazz chart at the start of August. The album, titled BiG HOMiE, is a heterogeneous mix of jazz, gospel, hip-hop, and avant-funk that is just as reminiscent of historic, experimental jazz records like Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters as it is of contemporary albums like Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered.
Buckner’s compositions soar and sway, blurring the line between Sunday church service and face-melting jam sessions. The intricate beats that Buckner builds take on myriad shapes and sizes. They thrash and burn; pitter and patter; mix and match. It makes sense that the album is so multifaceted: Buckner has performed with a variety of artists including gospel singer Jovonta Patton and the funk band Pho.
BiG HOMiE features several Twin Cities artists, including Minneapolis gospel performer Darnell Davis, St. Paul violinist Ernest Bisong, drummer Rodney Ruckus, and Mint Condition frontman Stokley Williams. The 29-year-old was caught off-guard by the success of his new LP. “It was super unexpected on my part,” he told the Star Tribune. “The timing of it, to me, underscores that Minneapolis is the center of the revolution right now.”
Buckner is a teacher at both the MacPhail Center for Music and the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and co-host of the PBS Digital Studios music education show Sound Field – a series that’s helped Buckner build the following that turned out to download his new album. He also holds a Master’s degree in percussion performance from the McNally Smith College of Music.
In a recent Sound Field video, Buckner talked about his decision to make a career in music – as opposed to his other choice, sports journalism. “I thought,” he says, “you know what? Life is too short. Even if it don’t work, I’m ’bout to try it.”