14:18 PM

Doc Loc and the Swangers fuse big band, rap sounds on Bayou Theater stage

Written by: Katherine Adams

Doc Loc and the Swangers have taken iconic Houston rap music, combined it with a 14-piece jazz band, and after a bit of composing, rearranging and remastering, have only one thing left to do: Have a concert at University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Bayou Theater Friday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m.

The band, led by Henry Darragh, boasts a big band sound coming from musicians of all ages, including 80-year-old Grace Estrada, who’s one of three trumpet players alongside three trombonists and five woodwind players.

“Our name is Doc Loc—which looks like ‘Doc Lock’ but actually rhymes with ‘Loc,’ as in Ton Loc—and the ‘swangers’ is a reference to the rims on tires that poke way out,” he explained. “Swing is part of jazz tradition, of course, but we use the word ‘swangers’ to describe what we do.”

Darragh, who holds a doctorate in music and hence is known as “Doc,” leads the group on keyboards and trombone. He said the group’s first releases, “Sittin’ Sidewayz” and “Draped Up” featuring Paul Wall and Big Pokey, took quite awhile to write for big band, but had been with the support of Dan Workman, owner of the legendary studio, SugarHill. “He co-produced my first project and his support was so important to me,” Darragh said. “I grew up in Houston hip-hop. We love Houston rappers. They love this city and they’re great ambassadors for Houston.”

His idea to fuse two drastically different genres of music—rap and big band, came from a lecture in a music class he took at University of Houston.

“I heard a recording of a woman speaking in Mandarin, and someone started orchestrating a rhythm on the piano to what she was saying. That was a spark,” he said. “But it’s not easy to create one’s own lane in music. We weren’t sure who we were writing it for, or if we had an audience. It’s kind of like building the airplane while flying it.”

Darragh said the group would premiere new selections during their performance at the Bayou Theater. “Sonically, rap is very boring, but the instrumental versions of the songs are appealing to a broader audience,” he said. “With the melodies I create based on the rhythm of the rap, I have a rhythm that I stick to, so it’s more interesting.”

Doc Loc and the Swangers showcase their love of Houston and their particular appreciation for its home-grown hip-hop artists. For tickets to the concert, or for more information about the Bayou Theater, go online.