On repeated hearing, early tonal repetition clears to reveal a formidable lyrical voice.
Charles De Ledesma 2007
In My Element is a captivating example of the rudely healthy shape of US ‘boutique’ jazz. The 27-year old pianist Robert Glasper has reached his third release already - his 2005 set Canvas was immediately critically acclaimed. The reason for the fuss is that unmistakable Glaser touch: neither enigmatically original nor faultlessly derivative but, rather, tuneful, warm and intelligent.
The Texan-born and gospel-raised Glasper is clearly indebted to contemporary jazz piano greats Keith Jarrett – for muscular, passionate flourishes – and Brad Mehldau, for narrative density and introspective complexity. Like Jarrett, Glasper tries his hand ably at repertoire standards, and, like Mehldau, has a habit of dashing away from melody, dangling percussive suggestions, before deftly returning to the safe ground of the lyric.
In My Element balances these themes finely, yet the most satisfying tunes are the more firmly emphatic ones. On the opener, "G And B", there is a noticeable hip-hop swing, and Glasper’s choppy playing is fast and insistent, yet not over-intense. On "FTB", a choppy percussive break-beat from his drummer, Damion Reid, sets up a funky counterpoint for a romantic piano melody.
It is left to two later tracks, "One For ‘Grew" and "Tribute" for expressions of other strands of African American culture. Voice samples from revered pianist Mulgrew Miller give the former a bebop, smoky jazz club feel and the latter - a tribute to Glasper’s greatest influence, his gospel singing mother, who has now passed on – is soaked in church inspiration, passion, love and deliverance.
In My Element is a strong, refined work in the classic jazz trio tradition. On repeated hearing, early tonal repetition clears to reveal a formidable lyrical voice.