After a nearly 10-year break between recordings, Cody ChesnuTT returned in 2012 with Landing on a Hundred, showing a new songwriting direction, a rich R&B sound, and a string arrangement on the song “Chips Down.” ChesnuTT is joined by pianist Alvin Lee Giles and members of the Portland State University Orchestra for this opbmusic session.
Playlist: Cody ChesnuTT at OPB
Here’s the session audio (performance and interview):
Cody ChesnuTT was not about to be a one album wonder. After his first release, The Headphone Masterpiece (2002), ChesnuTT took time away from recording. He became a father and, in his words, did some maturing, and then last year released his follow-up, Landing on a Hundred.
The Headphone Masterpiece was less an album and more of an epic tome of raw, musical composition that ran the gamut from rock and roll, to R&B. Recorded by Chesnutt using a 4-track recorder in his home studio, the album contained a whopping 36 tracks that spanned two discs. It was released in 2002. Critics were largely complimentary. But from the sheer volume of music, it was difficult to identify a single track upon which the album could really hang its hat. Songs like “Look Good In Leather” garnered attention because of its playfully self-indulgent, quirky lyrics, and a low-budget video which was on sporadic rotation on MTV. But the aesthetic of the video and the unapologetic swagger of the song’s lyrics did more to brand ChesnuTT as a novelty act, than as the musically gifted artist many know him to be.
Ahmir Questlove Thompson of The Roots reached out to ChesnuTT following the debut, which led to a collaboration re-visioning of one of the song “The Seed.” The new version, “The Seed 2.0” was the first single on The Roots’ 2003 album, Phrenology. The song’s video was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award, and Pitchfork listed the song among its 500 best songs of 2000’s. Since then, however, any other work from ChesnuTT has been missing in action.
Fast forward to October of 2012, exactly 10 years from the release of The Headphone Masterpiece. ChesnuTT is back with Landing on a Hundred, a pristine and soulful collection of songs that recall the golden age of R&B. Gone (for the most part) are the overly flamboyant song lyrics and overstated hubris of his first effort. In their place are masterfully composed songs which deliver messages of atonement, sacrifice, and social accountability. Instead of celebrating the consumer culture of materialism, ChesnuTT outright denounces it in songs like “Chips Down” and “What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next).” The new album also in some ways contradicts previous songs like “Look Good in Leather,” making it clear that over the last decade ChesnuTT has become a different person. The new song “Love is More Than a Wedding Day” is a testament to his marriage and to fidelity but also the challenges facing relationships and the necessary sacrifice required to maintain and nourish them.
Chesnutt speaks about these changes in the interview, and to the inspiration he draws from classic albums like Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, and Marvin Gaye’s iconic Whats Going On?
Cody ChesnuTT, recorded 2-1-13 at OPB
With pianist Alvin Lee Giles, and members of the PSU Orchestra: Jonathan DeBruyn; Richie Greene; Patrick Hanson; Kate Kilbourne; Loren Masanque; Robin Kim; Viet Bluck; and Zach Banks.
Audio: Steven Kray with assistance from Ted Cutler
Video: Ifanyi Bell, with Greg Boone and Jason Bernert
Photos: Ifanyi Bell and Nathan Quigley