In the past year I”ve been listening to and writing about a lot of fabulous jazz guitarists who have made big waves in the jazz world, starting from Pat Metheny through Mike Stern, down to Kurt Rosenwinkel and Matt Stevens. But lately I”ve found myself returning to my old stomping grounds of Jazz piano, as some fresh sounds have made heads turn, including mine.
One such individual on the new vanguard of Jazz piano is Robert Glasper. He draws direct heritage — no, lineage — from the likes of Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau. Indeed the delicacy and intimacy of Robert”s musical style and sensibilities has Bill Evans written all over it. He is the Bill Evans of the new age, the Bill Evans of our generation.
And yet his voice is all his own, standing tall among other contemporary musical giants. Rooted firmly in the Neo-Soul, Gospel, Hip-Hop, and Soul traditions, he counts his collaborators and friends such icons as Bilal, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Kanye West, J Dilla, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Common, and Maxwell, to name a few. Within the Jazz world he has been a regular component to the sounds of Russell Malone, Christian McBride, Terence Blanchard, and Roy Hargrove.
Robert Glasper carries the mantle of resolving jazz-hiphop/neo-soul fusion. He approaches this challenge with subtlety and intelligence, taking his time, and using a loose definition of time. What Glasper does is brings a finesse and refinement to hip-hop and neo-soul, one that has been polished in the tradition and punctuation of jazz. You can see examples of this in songs such as F.T.B. and J Dillalude on the 2007 In My Element album. Conversely, he brings a swagger, an attitude , a bite to his jazz that is full on Soul. He does this concisely in songs like Riot and Rise & Shine on his 2005 Canvas album.
The most marvelous thing about Robert Glasper is his devotion to uncompromising melody. From the bowels of Duke Ellington and Sonny Rollins, but ultimately Bill Evans, Robert”s piercing, what-you-see-is-what-you-get melodies clarifies reality for the listener.
At the age of 32, signed on with Blue Note, and already four albums under his belt, Robert Glasper”s career and sound is just beginning to ripen. But how fresh it is. This is North American contemporary jazz at its best.
Watch & Listen to Robert Glasper here: