Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2011: Wynton Marsalis (Festival Edition)

Robert Glasper

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I always tell my piano students to check out the masters: Fats Waller, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, and others. But jazz has changed a lot since the 1950s and 1960s, incorporating trends in American popular music—rock, soul, funk, and hip-hop. It’s a living music, so it’s important to check out the great players of today. One to track is Robert Glasper.

Glasper is a young pianist from Houston Texas who has had a meteoric rise in the jazz world. He was signed to Blue Note in 2005, after having worked as a sideman with people like trumpeter Nicholas Payton and rapper Q-Tip. Glasper is a piano virtuoso: he has a ferocious right hand, which can blaze solo lines of impressive complexity, but also deliver soulful melodic statements. His rhythmic phrasing comes more from hip-hop than be-bop (although, I don’t think hip-hop would have existed without be-bop, but that’s another discussion).

Glasper’s most recent disc is Double Booked, a reference to being slated for two different concerts at the same time. (Hey, it happens!) In this case, Glasper is showcasing two different bands at the same time: The Robert Glasper Trio, and the Robert Glasper Experiment. The former is a more traditional jazz trio, and the latter is a more blatant vehicle for jazz hip-hop fusion. The Experiment features the great Casey Benjamin, who plays alto saxophone, but also does wonderful things with the vocoder. (A vocoder is a device which essentially synthesizes the voice. It almost sounds like a singing robot—but trust me, it’s hipper than that!)

The Robert Glasper Trio is on stage at this year’s TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. If you want to hear a soulful, modern spin on jazz piano concepts, I highly recommend you check out this concert.

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