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Robert Glasper’s latest release provides the most relevant example of his personal voice as both a composer and arranger. Interestingly, Glasper’s instrumental prowess is more reserved on this record than perhaps any other, with many tracks focusing primarily on vocals rather than instrumental interplay. Glasper assumes the role of a co-producer and musical director, expanding his palette as an artist to a new plateau. The album leans heavily on R&B inflected vocals with organic hip-hop instrumental backing, and the results are interesting for both casual listeners and devoted musicians.
One of the most attractive aspects of this record for listeners is the eclectic mix of guests who are presented throughout the album. Erykah Badu, Mos Def, and Lupe Fiasco are just a few of the guests who contributed to this album. Glasper’s open minded approach in using these musicians may lead to a new audience for this music, perhaps helping to spread the influence of jazz into other genres. The average listener will certainly be hearing some unfamiliar sounds, but the individual tracks are very accessible due in large part to the rhythmic contributions of drummer Chris Dave, a master of both jazz and hip-hop styles.
Dave’s musicality is one of the highlights of this album. His drumming always provides a solid groove for the band to settle in to, but his use of angular fills and off beat accents shifts the band’s aesthetic away from most contemporary hip hop and R&B. Dave’s rhythmic complexity is intriguing, but never distracts listeners from following each tune’s natural progression. In terms of the instrumental aspects of this album, Dave’s drumming may be the element in which the rest of the band builds on. He provides a variety of approaches to keep the groove from becoming dull, and hip-hop listeners may find themselves wondering what other possibilities will emerge from the combination of hip-hop stylings with the natural complexity of jazz drumming.
This album will probably show up on top 10 lists at the end of the year, so even if you are a jazz purist, be sure to give it a listen.
Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio (Blue Note 2012)
Robert Glasper - piano, Chris Dave - drums, Casey Benjamin - sax, vocoder, producer, Derrick Hodge (bass)