Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Glasper, Robert

Pianist Robert Glasper has found success blending hiphop with jazz. He has experimented with both genres, recording for Fresh Sound and Blue Note, and alongside leading hiphop artists, including Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Q-Tip.

Glasper was born April 5th, 1978 in Houston, Texas. He cites his mother, pianist and singer Kim Yvette, as his primary musical influence, along with the rhythms and harmony he heard in gospel and hiphop music as a child.

Glasper started playing the piano at age twelve. By the age of fourteen, he was playing piano in Baptist church services. He attended Houston's High School for the Performing Arts. Some of his classmates were R&B singer Beyonce Knowles and jazz pianist Jason Moran.

After high school, Glasper performed around Houston until he received a full scholarship to attend the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. Glasper quickly became an active performer in New York, and recorded with bassists Christian McBride and MeShell N'degeocello, and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Glasper performed with McBride so frequently that he failed many of his classes in his final two years at the New School.

Glasperís first album as a leader, Mood, was released in 2004 on the Fresh Sound label. In 2005, he made his debut on Blue Note, releasing Canvas, with Vicente Archer on bass and Damion Reid on drums. In 2007, Glasper released In My Element, which again featured Archer and Reid on tracks such as "Of Dreams to Come."

Glasper also performs and tours with the group Robert Glasper's Experiment ,which features fellow Houstonians Derrick Hodge on bass and Chris 'Daddy' Dave on drums. The group frequently plays behind well known hiphop performers, such as Mos Def, Q-Tip, and soul singer Bilal. Glasper also serves as Bilalís musical director.

The Experiment, in which Glasper often plays the Fender Rhodes electric piano, performs regularly around New York under bills promoted by Megan Stabile's Revive Da Live marketing company, which aims to fuse jazz and hiphop in a live context. In 2007, the Experiment appeared at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester Tennessee, further exposing Glasper and company to a wider audience. Glasper has also appeared on albums by MC and producer Kanye West, and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt.

Glasper's approach to jazz is very influenced by the music of his generation, and this can be heard in the solo lines he creates at the keyboard. Glasper will frequently repeat melodic lines and ideas in his solos to create a sound reminiscent of the looping effects heard in hiphop music. Glasper's strong foundation in gospel music and the blues can also be heard in his solos.

One should not underestimate the range of inspirations or abilities of this young artist. This is well demonstrated in his interactions with his trio, which can range from striking to subdued, and are at once accessible, calming, and inviting.


as Robert Glasper

Mood (Fresh Sound/New Talent, 2004) Canvas (Blue Note, 2005) In My Element (Blue Note, 2007)

with Terrance Blanchard

Bounce (Blue Note, 2003)

with Jeremy Pelt

Profile (Fresh Sound/New Talent, 2002) with Bilal

1st Born Second (Interscope, 2007)

with Kanye West

Late Registration (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2005)

with Meshell N'degeocello

The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams (Emarcy, 2007)

Contributor: Jared Pauley