Duke Performances has some great jazz artists booked this year, certainly not the least among them being Branford Marsalis, whose two shows at Reynolds Theater this weekend are both sold out. But only one of them is prone to have rappers drop by and jam unannounced at their concerts. That’s what happened at the Blue Note last February, when Kanye West and Mos Def showed up to freestyle with the Robert Glasper Experiment. Pitchfork has a stream, and it’s worth checking out—despite the general debasement of the term “freestyle,” Kanye seems to be genuinely improvising, starting slow and then honing in on some terse fire in the second half.
A Houston native now based in New York, Glasper has spent about a decade developing a reputation, with his Robert Glasper Trio, as a skilled acoustic jazz pianist and bandleader with a sideline in hip-hop. (He earned a Grammy nomination for his keyboard work on Q-Tip’s The Renaissance and was the touring director for Mos Def’s live band.) Duke Performances brings his Trio to the Casbah for two nights on the weekend of March 30. Meanwhile, the first Robert Glasper Experiment album should dispel any notions of Glasper being a hip-hop dabbler.
Earning Glasper a slot on the L.A. Times’ “Faces to Watch in 2012” list, Black Radio will be issued by Blue Note/EMI on February 28, and finds the pianist at the helm of a full-fledged pop project. Coating jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and rock in a sheen of crisp, minimal, radio-ready production, the record features saxophonist Casey Benjamin, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Chris Dave alongside a deep roster of star guests, from Erykah Badu and Lupe Fiasco to Mos Def and Meshell Ndegeocello. It includes reworkings of Afro-Cuban standards (check it), Sade and David Bowie, and even Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Smells like Grammy-bait to us.
To get an advance taste of Black Radio, check out “Ah Yeah” (featuring Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele) embedded below, or sign up for Glasper’s mailing list to get a free mp3 of “Move Love” (featuring King). Then you’ll probably want to pick up tickets for one of the Robert Glasper Trio’s Duke Performances shows, before they go the way of the Marsalis.
“Ah Yeah” (featuring Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele)