Wednesday, March 7, 2012

FIRST LISTEN : Black Radio

Robert Glasper's Genre-Bending Mix of Jazz, Hip-Hop, and R&B

There are many reasons to be excited about Robert Glasper's latest musical endeavour, even before giving it a first listen. Chief among them:

Radio: lacking categorization
-His band--comprised of saxist Casey Benjamin, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Chris Dave--bears the name 'Experiment.'
-Glasper, already a Grammy-nominated pianist/keyboardist of significant acclaim, is signed to Blue Note Records, long considered the standard-bearer for all things good in jazz and blues, and home to current innovators like Madlib, St. Germain, and Medeski Martin and Wood.
-Glasper, 33, is schooled in jazz, but like so many of his under-forty contemporaries, was raised on a steady dose of hip-hop. He has a demonstrated track record of straddling both genres, with stints playing keyboards on Q-Tip's acclaimed 2008 album The Renaissance, and current role as musical director for the touring band of the artist formerly known as Mos Def.
Glasper: lacking boundaries
-The list of collaborators and contributors on the album reads like a who's-who in urban music; Erykah Badu, Bilal, Chrisette Michele, Lupe Fiasco, Musiq Soulchild, the former Mr. Def (now Yasiin Bey), etc..

A pretty good start just on spec. The music does not disappoint. Badu soulfully "Badu-izes" the jazz classic "Afro Blue" ;  Fiasco rhymes his signature Chicago-cool over Glasper's acoustic piano and a soaring vocal chorus from Bilal on "Always Shine" ; Bey jumps between machine-gun spoken word and vocal scatting on the album's jam-like title track ; Glasper even closes the album with a jazzed-out cover of the seminal Nirvana smash "Smells Like Teen Spirit," using a vocoder to funk-ify Kurt Cobain's famous lyrics.

Black Radio ; Completely experimental, totally unclassifiable, and undeniably cool:
Robert Glasper feat Erykah Badu Afro Blue by Hear This Smells Like Teen Spirit ft. Robert Glasper by Zack Sekoff