Bilal Oliver is a weird one.
The Philly born soul crooner arrived on stage in Montreal wearing shades and his best Thom Yorke impression (hands in pockets, ignoring the audience), singing slightly off key in an event which his name was most certainly the reason for it being sold out.
Bilal’s off-kilter soul drew laughs from some in the jazz-heavy audience. But it was Robert Glasper and his quartet who stood out and stole the show.
There is a reason why Glasper had not one but three nights at the prestigious jazz festival. He is quite possibly one of the best pianists of our time, and his mixture of contemporary jazz and hip-hop has been introducing the staid genre to a new generation of younger fans. His quartet, made up of some of the most talented young musicians, meticulously orchestrated Glaspers compositions, as well as ones from the great Herbie Hancock (which he did a day earlier with Terrance Blanchard).
But as Glasper and his quartet shined, it was Bilal who was the disappointment. His odd take on Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” did nothing to boost his jazz chops, although Glasper called him “one of my favorite jazz singers.” He felt more at home on his rendition of the glorious “All Matter,” off of Glaspers album Double Booked, performed a mere 20 minutes after his first appearance on stage (which was over a half hour before the beginning of the show).
But it’s not all bad news for the soul singer. His latest album … is sounding promising, and his loyal and devout fanbase will surely keep his career going.
As for Glasper. Please do yourself a favor and get familiar with the 32 year old artist. If you don’t know the name then you most certainly know who he’s worked with–Q-Tip, Kanye West, Eyrkah Badu, and the late great J Dilla.
Although jazz may not get the utmost respect from the hip-hop generation, pioneers like Glasper and Bilal have given the genre an extra boost of life, and will hopefully gain new fans in future generations.