One of the most promising jazz pianists of his generation.
John Eyles 2009-09-04
Robert Glasper is one of the most promising jazz pianists of his generation. Alongside the likes of Taylor Eigsti and Vijay Iyer, he is part of the chasing pack likely to break through into the lead. In his jazz trio, Glasper combines a sharp brain with nimble-fingered technique, taste with restraint.
Beyond this trio, Glasper has eclectic tastes and regularly works alongside hip hop artists such as Q-Tip, Bilal, Mos Def and The Roots. He leads the Robert Glasper Experiment, an outlet for his hip hop-flavoured music. On Double Booked, his third Blue Note, he showcases both aspects of his music.
Successful amalgams of jazz and hip hop are rare. Rather than venturing down that route, this album contains six tracks by the Robert Glasper Trio followed by another six from the Experiment. The latter tracks feature guest appearances by Mos Def and Bilal, the latter providing plaintive vocals on two tracks including his self-penned All Matter.
The Experiment’s electric instrumentation – including Glasper’s Fender Rhodes, Derrick Hodge on bass guitar, Casey Benjamin’s treated alto saxophone and vocoder-distorted vocals – creates a soundscape that contrasts starkly with the trio while also sounding like a period piece from the last century.
Chris Dave’s busy drumming style is well suited to the Experiment, but he doesn’t have the subtlety of Damion Reid, the trio’s former drummer. On Yes I’m Country (And That’s OK), one of Glasper’s beguilingly beautiful compositions for the trio, the drums almost overwhelm the piano. Long-standing bassist Vincente Archer complements the piano perfectly.
Alongside the original compositions, cover versions of two tracks by past Blue Note pianists dominate Double Booked. Thelonious Monk’s Think of One provides a fitting showcase for Glasper’s skills. He reels off fluent solo passages, building tension and momentum that takes the track to a thrilling finale.
The Experiment’s version of Herbie Hancock’s Butterfly emphasises Glasper’s desire to follow in the influential pianist’s footsteps in straddling jazz and other music. While Glasper certainly has the talent to succeed Monk, Hancock and other illustrious Blue Note artists, in aiming to please both jazz and hip hop fans with Double Booked he runs the risk of not fully satisfying either.