Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

July/August 2010: Hank Jones

Robert Glasper’s Experiment

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There has been a movement in jazz as of late: a younger crowd of jazz musicians are combining jazz with the hip-hop and neo-soul that they grew up listening to. At the forefront of this movement is Robert Glasper, a virtuosic and inventive pianist who has recently released his third album for Blue Note Records.

Glasper has made a big impact as the leader of a trio featuring Vicente Archer on bass and, most recently, Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums. Glasper’s church background adds a gospel flavour to his playing and he has a very distinctive touch on the piano. Together with this he creates mesmerizing soundscapes with many rhythmic and harmonic twists and turns.

Archer is one of the most sought-after bass players in jazz today, splitting his time between Glasper and trumpeter Nicholas Payton. He and drummer Dave, who also hails from Glasper’s hometown of Houston, Texas, were both previously members of Kenny Garrett’s powerful quartet.

Dave has quickly risen to prominence in the last decade as a revolutionary jazz and R&B drummer. Through his work with Glasper, Garrett, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, Mint Condition, and his current employer Maxwell, he has reimagined many of the accepted norms of playing the drums. He has made a huge impact on today’s drummers, including Eric Harland and Kendrick Scott, who cite Dave as a main influence. He combines an incredibly deep pocket with superhuman speed and precision; he has to be seen to be believed.

On Glasper’s latest record, Double Booked, the trio is presented opposite a group he calls The Experiment. This group consists of Casey Benjamin on alto saxophone and vocoder, Derrick Hodge on electric bass, Dave on drums, and Glasper on Fender Rhodes. This group fully explores hip-hop and contemporary R&B much the same way that his predecessors Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock did with rock and funk in the 70s. (Double Booked even features a stellar version of Hancock’s “Butterfly.”)  The album features cameos by neo-soul singer Bilal, and hip-hop superstar Mos Def, both artists for whom Glasper has served as musical director.  One of the collaborations with Bilal, the track “All Matter,” was nominated for a Grammy award in the Urban/Alternative Category.

Also included on Double Booked are two voicemail messages which outline the concept of the album. The first is from veteran jazz trumpet player Terence Blanchard, and the second is from Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, drummer from The Roots, both attempting to get Glasper to play their event—Blanchard with the trio, Thompson with The Experiment. This is a testament to the amount of respect Glasper has gained in both the jazz and urban music communities.

Glasper’s work is an inspiration and a challenge to all of us who are serious about jazz. He is helping to create an exciting new sound in jazz, a sound that respects tradition but adds a tough yet subdued, urban edge. Winnipeg audiences would appreciate his eclectic mix of musics—I hope we can experience him live very soon.

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