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Mocean Worker: Old Jazz Meets New Producer

Mocean Worker, a.k.a. Adam Dorn, takes jazz musicians' solos and reworks them over original beats.
Mocean Worker, a.k.a. Adam Dorn, takes jazz musicians' solos and reworks them over original beats.

Ask the electronic artist Mocean Worker about what kind of music he makes, and he'll likely tell you it's informed by his love of jazz. His new record, Cinco de Mowo!, features plenty of jazzy riffs and samples.

Mocean Worker, aka Adam Dorn (and sometimes "Mowo"), certainly comes from a fabled jazz pedigree. He's the son of famed record producer Joel Dorn, and he grew up around the jazz and R&B discs his father produced for Atlantic Records in the '60s and '70s.

Not that Dorn needed any encouragement. As a 15-year-old, he sent a fan letter to bassist Marcus Miller. When Miller responded, inviting Dorn to come by the studio, one visit turned into three years hanging around the likes of David Sanborn, Luther Vandross and Miles Davis. In fact, Dorn wound up missing his high-school prom.

"It was Miles Davis, and it was my senior year in high school," he says. "I wouldn't trade that experience in a million years."

Though he works largely with recording and mixing equipment these days, Dorn started his own career in music as a bass player and studio musician. He even played with some of the legends his father recorded, including pianist Les McCann and saxophonist Eddie Harris.

Dorn adopted the Mocean Worker moniker (pronounced "Motion Worker") as a DJ of drum 'n' bass music. These days, Mocean Worker does his work largely in front of the virtual studios he's set up on his computers.

"I get musicians to come in and copy things, and I distress the recordings and make things sound old," he says. Of course, Cinco de Mowo! also features sampled material too — that is, "recontextualized" and "murderized" samples. "My whole thing is I love to have someone listening to something and say, 'I don't know what's sampled, I don't know what's played — I don't care, I like what I'm hearing.'"

The new Mocean Worker record features legendary musicians like Marcus Miller, Herb Alpert and Rahsaan Roland Kirk — all sampled, of course. To promote the album, Dorn has even brought Mocean Worker to the stage, combining live instrumentation with his laptop programming. He enjoys getting audiences to dance to his brand of jazz — or whatever it is.

"I don't know that I necessarily make jazz, but I might make jazzy music," he says. "And the goal is for people to enjoy it."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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