LIVE: Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio Album Release, Highline Ballroom NYC
by Keya Maeesha
Photos by Ashleigh Reddy (@stayReddy). Please support.
If you are unfamiliar with the genius of Robert Glasper, then I cannot help but to question your taste in music. Glasper, who is not a stranger to some of your favorite artists (Bilal, Kanye West, Yasiin Bey, and the likes), released what is notably the most anticipated, as well as the most well crafted album of 2012. Released February 28th, Black Radio topped the ITunes pop charts at #3 on its first day, and #1 for jazz albums. Not enough? Social media went into frenzy when the album was finally available for purchase. Twitter actually shut down for a while due to the overwhelming tweets about the album. One tweeter said “If this album [doesn’t] go platinum, we have really lost touch of what music is #BlackRadio”. This is the general consensus for everyone who has streamed, purchased, and downloaded (legally and even illegally) the album. Bottom line, this is Glasper’s best. So it was only fitting that on the night of his album release, he gracedNew York City with a show at the Highline Ballroom. The show, which sold out, was beyond amazing. Music heads were pleased by what Glasper had to offer and left with a feeling of knowing that Glasper would be around for a long time.
What is the best way to introduce a genius to a crowd? Get another genius to set the tone for the evening. Good friend and fellow artist, DJ ?uestLove, did exactly that. Spinning dope tracks that some folks have never heard of, the crowd didn’t even notice that the show was running a little behind schedule. It was okay, though. Kats were bopping their heads and even had circle pockets around the venue with people dancing as they got lost in ?uest’s musical escape.
Out walk Derrick Hodge, Casey Benjamin, and Mark Colenburg, members of the band who would be accompanying Glasper. Needless to say, the audience began to get excited. With open ears and anticipating hearts, Glasper graces the stage and they begin to play a tribute to the classics. Opening with John Coltrane’s “Acknowledgment”, Benjamin crooned “A Love Supreme” through the vocoder about 30 times. The awesome part about this was that the crowd was singing right along with him. Glasper and his band then transitioned into “A Tear To A Smile” by Roy Ayers, followed by the Herbie Hancock classic “Trust Me”.
To add a little flavor to the show, in true Glasper fashion, the musical charmer introduced every guest her brought out onto the stage with a little humor and history of how he and the artist met. First up, the beautiful Chrisette Michele. Standing tall in her little black dress, the baby faced singer opened the guest segment with “Afro Blue”. Taking the place of her own musical inspiration, Erykah Badu who is originally singing on the album, Michele did what she is known for. Wooing the crowd with elegance and her sultry voice, the audience was captured in the beauty of the lyrics and the composition of the song.FellowNewSchoolalum and good friend, Bilal, continued the show by singing their rendition of David Bowie’s “Letter to Hermione”. If you’ve ever watched Bilal perform, you understand how is eccentricity and vocal range will have you tantalized and lost in a zone.
Yasiin Bey, the artist whom we all love and formerly known as Mos Def, rocked the stage to a different tempo. He performed the title track of the album “Black Radio”. And when you thought it couldn’t get any better, out walks the beautiful Lalah Hathaway to sing Glasper’s rendition of Sade’s “Cherish The Day”. Michele keeps the high that was set by Hathaway and returns to the stage to not only take the audience to church (literally), but to sing the album’s first single “Ah Yeah” which features Musiq Soulchild. In his absence, Casey Benjamin (one of the dopest musicians you will ever have the opportunity to experience), opened the duet. Benjamin then began Glasper’s rendition of Kurt Cobain’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which smoothly transitioned into the “Dilla-tude” which featured Hathaway and Bilal. The show would not have been complete without a little highlight of their own music from some of the artists right? You can imagine the response of the crowd when Bilal began to sing “All Matter” and Bey closed with “Umi Says”. There was not a single person who could not feel the magic of this evening. If you were not a fan of Glasper before this night, you definitely became one.
Robert Glasper is dope. Period. He has successfully stripped away the mantra that is associated with “jazz musician”. I like to call him“music”…because that is what he is. It is what he represents. There is no box for this man. Let’s not put him in one.
Special thanks to Ashleigh from Stay Reddy Photography for the absolutely awesome photos and Giant Step and Jill Newman Productions for putting on such a great event.