The Jazz.com Blog
September 09, 2009 · 0 comments
Jared Pauley spurred some heated dialogue and debate with an article published in this column last year on jazz and hip-hop. (See one skeptical response here.) Now the debate is likely to start up again, with Robert Glasper's high-profile new CD mixing the two genres. This new CD is already climbing up the sales charts, and looks to be a big crossover success. Pauley reports on the release party below. [Note: a track from this CD is currently featured as Song of the Day at jazz.com.] T.G.
The champion of hip-hop and jazz, pianist Robert Glasper, returned to the world of music with his August 25th release Double Booked. Featured on the disc are his acoustic and electric working bands. The acoustic line-up includes Vicente Archer on bass and Chris "Daddy" Dave on drums while his electric band adds Casey Benjamin on alto sax and vocoder, and Derrick Hodge on electric bass. On Sunday August 30th, in conjunction with Revive Music Group and Le Poisson Rouge, Glasper held his album release party at an esteemed and legendary West Village location (the old Village Gate).
From the start there was buzz in the air as people wondered what special guests might show—since Glasper plays with many well-known artists in the industry. DJ Stimulus got the party started a little after eight, switching up between old school soul records, neo-soul tunes and old school hip-hop. Glasper hit the stage roughly at 10:30 p.m. with Vicente Archer and Chris Dave.
I found the interaction of this trio to be very electrifying and satisfying. Chris Dave moved seemlessly around the playing of both Archer and Glasper, creating complex rhythmic tensions and even stronger resolutions. Archer showed why he is one of the best bassists around right now, effortlessly incorporating swing grooves with well thought-out and intelligent solos. Glasper also complemented the mood with warm melodic passages and intricate harmonic movements.
Yet at times I wondered whether some of the fans at the show were really "getting" the jazz part of the show. There were moments where I felt as though the audience was just waiting on Mos Def or Q-Tip to pop out of the sky and grab the mike. Aside from this—and the occasional mess up of the sound man misjudging Glasper's piano levels—the set was well worth it. I always like hearing Vicente Archer, and this performance really sold me on the straight ahead talents of all three musicians.
Walking through the crowd I noticed many well-known jazz musicians, from Gretchen Parlato to Marcus Strickland, eagerly awaiting the next set as much as I was. After a longer than expected intermission, Glasper returned with his electric band, adding Derrick Hodge and Casey Benjamin. By now the crowd was reeling with anticipation. When the sound check was finally complete, the group was ready to start doing their thing. The group performed several tunes off of the electric part of Double Booked, adding nice textures and inflections which were strongly aided by Glasper's Fender Rhodes playing.
As WBGO's Josh Jackson has pointed out, Casey Benjamin a.k.a. Stuts McGhee, is single handedly bringing the vocoder back into popular music. Some might see this as a curse but Benjamin stood out from the rest of the band, stealing the show in my opinion with powerful solos and wonderfully timed excecutable, melodic ideas. When the group started playing Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," I was more than impressed with their versatility as an ensemble. Derrick Hodge was the anchor, grooving like the ghost of Paul Jackson was sitting on his shoulder steering him into unchartered waters.
The drumming style of Chris Dave is hard to describe. There are moments where I thought Tony Williams had been resurrected. Dave's shifts between styles and meters almost seem to happen through osmosis. Although Mos Def and Q-Tip didn't show up, guitarist Lionel Loueke did arrive, garnering much deserved praise and adulation from the crowd of 300. I didn't catch the name of the tune, but Loueke fit in well with the quartet. Vocalist Bilal was also present, joining the band for "All Matter," which was recorded for Double Booked as well. My personal favorite song of the second set had to be Derrick Hodge's "Open Mind." He started off the song with an astonishing electric bass set-up that blended harmonics and chordal movements.
Overall, the Robert Glasper release show was what I expected it to be. I was a little surprised at the fluidity of the acoustic trio, even though I found both sets of music to be equally refreshing. One thing that I didn't like about the show was the sound man. LPR has an onboard sound man and also has sound people in the back controlling the house mix. Whoever was running sound on stage just couldn't seem to get it right when it came to adjusting Glasper's audio levels. I shouldn't have been that surprised though, because every single show I've been to at LPR, there has been some kind of issue with the sound. Whether it's mike feedback from the horns or inappropriate levels from the instruments, something always seems to go wrong.
I think it's safe to say that Robert Glasper has really found his niche with Double Booked. Some might find the electric band to be too much at times but I think others will find their music to be just as refreshing and inviting as music from the 1970s and beyond. Double Booked charted at number 7 on Billboard's jazz chart, number 1 on ITunes jazz and 453 on Amazon's download charts, which is a good sign that Glasper has successfully found a way to bridge the gaps that exist between the hip-hop and jazz audiences. Only time will tell but if Glasper is able to convert some hip-hop fans into jazz lovers and jazz lovers into fusion fans, I think we should say "Salud!" And give credit where credit is due.
This blog entry posted by Jared Pauley