The Houston-born, Brooklyn-based pianist Robert Glasper and his Experiment comes to the World Cafe Live hot on the heels of his new CD, Black Radio Recovered: The Remix EP, a six-track project featuring reworked and unreleased tracks from his masterpiece, Black Radio.
“I wanted this album to be an album that people don’t know what the fuck to call it,” Glasper told PW by phone from Chicago. “I wanted to tap into every part of black music.”
Glasper’s economic and elegant pianism is supported by a dynamic mix of skilled MCs, notable singers and acclaimed producers. 9th Wonder and Phonte add a dancing shade of gray on the jazz standard “Afro Blue,” featuring Erykah Badu. Pete Rock adds Now Rule nuances to the title track, laced with Yasiin Bey’s insurgent invocations, contrasted by Georgia Anne Muldrow’s eerie take on “The Consequences of Jealousy” with Meshell Ndegeocello. Questlove, the Roots and Solange Knowles brew up a not-so-quiet storm on “Twice,” and Glasper and Jewels deliver a pulsating, piano-centric take on David Bowie’s “Letter to Hermione” with Bilal.
“Each producer I choose is melodically inclined,” says Glasper. “They know the right chords to get from a song.”
The last track, “Dillalude #2,” is a moving piece dedicated to the late uber-producer Dilla, with whom Glasper first worked in 1999. “(Dilla) was the only producer that I know who changed the way musicians play their instruments,” he says. “The way I lay my chords, the way I play a chord over a beat, the feel of it, I get from Dilla. That’s why I do tributes to him.”
Glasper’s blend of jazz and hip-hop is parallel to the way bebop musicians in the ‘40s added their own melodies and rhythms to the pop standards of the day. So don’t except some Du Bois-style, double-consciousness angst from him regarding his musical identity. “I’m a hip-hop musician, and I’m a jazz musician,” Glasper declares. “Jazz musicians remix every time they play, and hip-hop is the daughter of jazz. Without jazz, there probably wouldn’t be no hip-hop, which is why it’s so easy to blend them. But at the same time, they are two different disciplines. You have to study both of them.”
Sat., Oct. 13, 8pm. $20-$28. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400. worldcafelive.com
PW's Music Issue 2014