The near-collapse of the record business has left us with fewer and fewer recordings by young, emerging jazz talent. For the most part, unless you (1) live in New York City and (2) hang out in its clubs, you’re out of luck. Thankfully, there are exceptions, and a notable one is Houston pianist Robert Glasper, a musician of startling virtuosity. At 32, he’s been a fixture on the New York scene since his 2003 debut, fronting not one but two bands, each of radically different temperament: his nimble piano jazz trio and the Robert Glasper Experiment, an electric group that flirts with hip-hop and soul stylings. His fourth CD, Double-Booked (Blue Note), celebrates this dichotomy by featuring both bands. The trio selections that open the album are forceful, melodic, and dynamic. Glasper employs clipped circular phrases as though he’s being sampled, building the music into emotional swells and powering the trio throughout. It’s quite a performance, and it makes the Experiment sessions that follow pale somewhat by comparison. Glasper has long been affiliated with hip-hop through his association with rappers Bilal and Mos Def (both of whom appear here), and he incorporates its beats into a range of sounds: Awash in a seventies fusion vibe (vocoder, electric piano), the Experiment finds some appealing, glitchy Miles-esque grooves. But then it wanders, losing direction and, sometimes, its edge. Still, it’s clear that Glasper is adventurously pushing his music forward—and, lucky for us, getting it out there.
From the August 2009 Issue Subscribe