Robert Glasper Experiment
Tuesday, February 28
Better than: Sitting at home with the radio.
"About what time does ?uestlove finish up at the Fallon show? It couldn't have been that long ago, right?"
That query, overheard amid the big beats pumping from the Highline Ballroom's system as I entered its near-capacity music room, was the first sign that I'd entered what might be termed the "Glasper Glow." Its namesake, pianist Robert Glasper, wouldn't hit the stage for another hour or so, but his presence was undeniable even in the absence of the rolling keys that are his signature sound. Scanning the space, another question came to mind: What other jazz musician (an identity Glasper doesn't seem to question, despite its checkered commercial history) would be able pull together such a youthful, multihued crowd, all of whom were on board to hear improvisation, silky urban-contemporary smoothness, and beats-to-the-rhyme? The star power attached to Glasper's gestalt was already visible on the bandstand; the aforementioned Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson was at stage left, playing warmup DJ for Glasper's record release showcase within hours of punching out from the Roots' "day job" at 30 Rock.
Not for nothing does Black Radio, Glasper's fourth album, feel like the pianist's statement of creative unification. His records have edged toward this soothingly heady synthesis for some time now, attempting to reconcile his benchmark skills in acoustic postbop with his high-flying keyboard excursions backing up the Roots, Yasiin Bey (the artist formerly known as Mos Def) and soul singer Bilal, whom Glasper met when both were in the New School jazz program. It remains to be seen whether the Glasper Glow will make its way to the pop airwaves, but last night was the first of two evenings scripted to get many of the album's special guest stars (Bey and Bilal among them) onstage with the Experiment's core electric quartet (Casey Benjamin, sax and vocals; Derrick Hodge, bass; Mark Colenburg, drums). More »