To say that Robert Glasper is hot right now is an understatement. To put it frankly, he’s on fire. I personally felt the flames of Glasper’s musical inventiveness during his concert at the Charles H. Wright Museum on Friday night.
The pianist’s jazz fusion band, The Robert Glasper Experiment performed tracks from their highly acclaimed new album, Black Radio.
Released on February 28, Black Radio entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at number 15, debuted at number 10 on the Top Current Albums chart, and has reached number 3 on the overall iTunes Music Store in the U.S. The album remains number 1 on the iTunes Jazz charts in nine countries, including the U.S., U.K., France, Australia and Japan.(Jazz Times)
Not bad for a jazz album. However, Glasper who effectively fuses hip hop, jazz, and neo-soul into his music has gotten critics and such wondering if this fusion of music is jazz or not. (Check out the NY Times piece about Glasper to see what I mean)
But, I like to think of Glasper’s music as melodies for the masses; there is a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy.
And his performance further proved that people are definitely feeling his soulful embodiment of American music.
Starting off the set with a futuristic version of “A Love Supreme,” Glasper showcased his firm connection with traditional jazz while still staying true to his unique sound.
I’m not sure if the jazz traditionalists would have dug it, but the crowd sure did, especially when saxophonist and keyboardist Casey Benjamin chanted the famous “love supreme” line on the vocoder.
Glasper followed the piece with a lovely, yet dark, mysterious solo on Fender Rhodes. He admitted that he is not big on soloing and prefers to let the band take the spotlight, but his virtuosic piano skills are to be commended and added even more substance to the performance.
Glasper sure was in good company as each band leader held their own when it came to dishing out solos. Derrick Hodge showed off his eloquent prowess on electric bass, and Chris Dave was powerful as ever on the drums.
There must of been some anticipation from the audience as to how the band was going to pull off the songs from Black Radio, which features a plethora of guest artists such as Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild, Yassin Bey(Mos Def) and Bilal.
But, they went through tracks like “Ah Yeah” “Black Radio” Cherish the Day” and “Afro Blue” with no problems or awkwardness at all. Benjamin took the vocal lead on the songs, captivating the crowd with his ornamented phrasing on the vocoder.
Yet, the most exhilarating part of the show came when Glasper broke out the J Dilla tunes. Dilla was a revered hip hop producer from Detroit who passed away in 2006. Glasper was good friends with Dilla; the two worked together during the beginning of Glasper’s career and he even recorded a tribute to Dilla on his 2006 album In My Element. During the special tribute set, Glasper spoke of Dilla’s significance in hip hop and honored the late producer by wearing a J Dilla t-shirt.
The energetic atmosphere during the set was almost reminiscent of a hip hop concert, especially when the band played the chorus from the Dilla produced track “The Light” by Common. People were bopping their heads profusely, jumping up and down and waving their hands in the air.
You could just feel the true power of hip hop and jazz in the air.
The concert may have started late, but after the show was over, I doubt if anyone cared about or remembered the band’s tardiness. They were still reeling from the musical magic that Glasper had just put out. I know I was.