Music Review: Robert Glasper

Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 EvansHerbie 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:




Esperanza Spalding @ Gesu – Centre de Creativite, Montreal 7/2/09

Posted: July 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

esperanza-spalding-08
Day 3 of my jazz week, and I get a second chance at seeing Esperanza Spalding here in Montreal, at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

This time, without a thunderstorm overhead, I am able to fully engage and immerse myself in the music and experience that is, Esperanza.

Esperanza played a balanced mix of songs from her previous two albums and many new songs we can expect will likely show up on her upcoming album (which is supposed to be a hommage to Nina Simone). I had a smile on my face the entire performance. I couldn’t wipe it off even if I tried. I was head-boppin’, foot-stompin’ all the way through.

A few thought-provoking ideas went through my head as I was enjoying the concert:

1) You’re only as good as the musicans you play with:
Esperanza played with a stellar, yet young group including Otis Brown (bass), Ricardo Roach (guitar), Geonese (?) (piano). Keep an eye out for any and all of these musicians, as I am very sure they will all lead very successful and distinguished careers as the leaders of their own jazz groups. With the type of music that Esperanza and many of the younger groups are playing, they require each musician in the group to be fully adaptable and possess many different musical specialties.

2) A glimpse into the New Contemp Jazz direction:
Esperanza is not the only artist playing multiple styles fusion. But different from the type of fusion Miles Davis pioneered (Fusion with instrument, sounds and a heavy influence from the then fresh avant garde/free jazz movement) The new fusion is about fusing different styles of popular music genres into Jazz: Rock-Jazz, Soul-Jazz, Trip hop-Jazz, R&B-Jazz, Hip Hop-Jazz. The contemporary jazz musician like Esperanza (an like Christian Scott or The Bad Plus) are arranging each song as it should be arranged, whether it is a Jazz rhythm line supporting a pop song, or a jazz song in a the context of rock.

2a) Successful players must be masters at a multiple number of different genres:
What this means for all contemporary musicians and those up & coming, is that if these advancing artists are constructing this paradigm, all subsequent jazz musicians will need to master not only jazz, but a number of other genres as well. We will see not only specialists in one instrument or style in Jazz, we will see more musicians who will be specialists in multiple genres to master New Jazz Fusion.

2b) Each song is a different kind of fusion:
No longer will a full album be made to reinforce one jazz genre. As we saw in Esperanza’s second album which had three distinct types of fusion equally represented throughout the album, we’re going to see more musicians have consecutive songs distinctly different from one another. It may alienate some listeners, especially those that only like one kind of style/genre/fusion.
But this type of each-song-stands-on-its-own album fits into the iTunes-style of music selling: Now that music listeners & buyers are purchasing each song at a time, and less and less purchasing whole albums, it allows a listener to choose the type of fusions that are most appealing to them from that one particular artist.

Esperanza’s first album set a foundation that established her firmly as a young-rising talented artist in the jazz arena. Album two threw together a few different styles Esperanza could do to show her verasity. It also helped the record label learn more about which styles are most commercially viable. Now with sneak peeks at some new songs, we have an idea where her next album is going: further into fusion: soul, rock, world-music into jazz.

Esperanza’s show illicited continuous standing ovations from the audience, resulting in two encores.

In the subsequent days after Esperanza’s performance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, I saw and read a number of very strong and positive reviews from her performance. But I think the clearest indicator of how successful her performance at the jazz fest was the fact that all of her cds were sold out in every single music store I could find (and I went to all of the stores, my friend wanted to buy the album but we couldn’t find it anywhere).

Bravo to Esperanza Spalding! The highlight of my few days at this year’s Montreal International Jazz Fest.