12th March 2012

Album: Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio

The future of jazz? No. Glasper is now. He’s relevant now.

Robert Glasper Experiment
Black Radio
Blue Note
5 stars

“You’ll need only two things to direct your course, your ears and your soul”. So begins the latest release from the unstoppable Robert Glasper, featuring special guests including Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Ledisi, and Musiq Soulchild. If you’ve not heard the name before, take note.

At the core of this album is the Experiment, featuring Derrick Hodge on bass, Casey Benjamin on Vocoder and Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums. The band melds itself to each guest’s style whilst remaining true to the artistic thread that runs through the album. This is not a ‘Glasper plus Special Guests’ album. This is a concise and powerful statement.

Robert Glasper’s acoustic piano permeates the music almost like a signature, accenting certain patterns and phrases and binding the album together. Prominent backbeats and subtle synths build on the hip hop aesthetic while Casy Benjamin’s otherworldly Vocoder shades the vocals. The diverse background of the group (Glasper is a product of the same High School that gave the world Beyoncé) means that they have a real flexibility in the influences that they reach for and have a particular kind of jazz-like suppleness throughout. Recorded with little advanced preparation, the music has a sense of spontaneity that is so often lost.

One of the highlights of the album is the Experiment’s tribute to Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ which builds in layers until it collapses into muddied drums, echoing synths and cosmic ringing.

Overall, this is an album about songs. There is a noticeable scarcity of solos of any kind which just makes the album more accessible. There are no self-indulgent odysseys to alienate the casual listener, only a focused quest for groove and a current voice. The consensus is that Glasper is the future of jazz. But in his own words, “No, I’m now. I’m relevant now”. I could not agree more.

Robert Glasper Experiment feat. Yasiin Bey – Black Radio

Learn about the inspiration and artist collaborations behind Black Radio

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