Photo from Glasper’s concert in Montreal, 2010.
Jazz will always be one of America’s finest cultural exports. In recent years, the ingenuity and creativity that drove it over the course of its history has been waning. There are many factors, one large one being that newer artists have been slow to incorporate new influences into the music as their earlier contemporaries were able to do. The Robert Glasper Experiment is one of the few bands out that’s able to do this. After releasing the expansive Black Radio this year, the band collaborated with a host of hip-hop artists to remix their work for an EP. They played two shows at SOBs in support of this effort to kick off CMJ week.
With little preamble, the band delved right into their ambitious set as soon as they touched the stage. What is evident with each time they touch the stage, these guys know how to communicate with each other. After an improvisational set, the band smoothly moved into their staple cover of “Cherish The Day.’ As they went from this to their hip-hop influenced ‘Afro-Blue’, each member had a chance to shine with a solo. The baton was passed seamlessly, initiated by bandleader Robert Glasper on keys. Derrick Hodge then took over on bass before handing it over for Casey Benjamin, who showed off his talents on sax. Mark Colenburg then did an incredibly inspired drum solo which finished the stretch.
Glasper has always tried to stretch the boundaries of where jazz can go, and he’s become very fond of interpreting the Nirvana classic ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ This version was a bit more rhythmic than earlier incarnations, definitely influenced by the hip-hop remix that recently surfaced on their remix EP. Continuing with the merge of hip-hop and jazz they’ve become known for, the finished the night with their own ‘Gonna Be Alright’ over the J Dilla classic ‘Fall In Love’. In a crisp 70 minute set, The Robert Glasper Experiment reminded us about the possibilities when you love the music and let things happen.