Robert Glasper Experiment: 29 February 2012 - New York

The Robert Glasper Experiment yielded to overwhelming demand by adding this second album release show.

To use a cliché, pianist Robert Glasper wears many hats. He oscillates between his jazz trio, his “experiment,” and a demanding schedule as a premier sideman (Maxwell) and session player (Common, Q-Tip, the Roots) -- Wednesday’s hat was a black fleece, by the way. He is thusly described as operating at the nexus of hip hop and jazz, heralded as a vanguard. It often seems this intersection balances upon Glasper himself. However, Glasper is the first to shun such lionizing. In a recent NPR interview, when asked about jazz’s old guard criticizing his position as an innovator, he emphasized the form’s dynamism. “I’m doing what 'Trane and Miles were doing. I’m doing what Herbie does”. In other words, he is simply doing what any honest jazz musician would do -- experimenting with new sounds. The conservationist attitude embodied by the jazz community, “kill[s] the alive to praise the dead”, he says. By ossifying, jazz is killing itself. It’s a stinging rebuke, but less so when delivered in his jovial demeanor.

On Black Radio, his first formal record for Blue Note with the Robert Glasper Experiment and a natural continuation of his previously bifurcated album, Double Booked, all of his collaborators possess a “jazz spine”, he says. The same is true of each member, whose backgrounds and recordings parallel Glasper’s. The consistent element in all of Glasper’s playing, to borrow another cliché, is the groove. As he told me two years ago, “It’s like a drone or something. It puts people in a zone and it just evokes feeling and it gets spiritual”. It’s a comforting feeling, “to be able to just nod my head for five minutes”, he says. This foundation was on full display Wednesday night at the Highline Ballroom, a second album release show added after overflowing interest. Instrumental in the record’s groove was drummer Chris Dave, who has been more than capably substituted by Mark Colenburg.

Opening with “A Love Supreme”, the quartet’s sound coalesced under Casey Benjamin’s galactic vocoder while anchored by Derrick Hodge’s bass. Later, Benjamin picked up his saxophone, blasting emphatic lines. Hodge showed-off his lyricism when he played an extended solo intro to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, deeper in their setlist. Like the record, the show’s energy was derived from a roster of special guests. Ledisi crooned along to a reworked “FTB” and Meshell Ndegeocello also sang beautifully. Many in the crowd were itching for the evening’s most well-known guest, Lupe Fiasco. Along with Bilal, they performed “Always Shine”, returning several times thereafter. In fact the show closed with Fiasco’s “Kick Push” and “Show Goes On”. The loose, organic musical partnerships onstage were exemplified by Fiasco and Glasper’s constant teasing. Highlights included: Glasper referring to Fiasco as Whoopi, given his sprouting dreads; Fiasco stealing Glasper’s wallet; and Fiasco challenging Glasper to rap, who obligingly played along by feigning incompetence to the crowd’s delight.

Less enthusiastic jazz critics, while celebrating the group’s obvious talent, will likely bemoan the lack of piano solos, the liberal use of Benjamin’s vocoder, and the ambiguous pop or jazz direction. But that’s the point. Glasper and his cohort’s unique inputs, equal parts Run-DMC and Thelonious Monk, naturally generate unique outputs. The result is a balance of diverse forces that forge a lulling cadence -- and natural progress.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.