PHOTO CREDIT: TERRENCE JENNINGS
With jazz experiencing a major resurgence within the under 30s demographic (thanks to the likes of MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Jason Moran and Grammy Award winner, Esperanza Spalding), the latest young jazz artist to step into the forefront is pianist extraordinaire, Robert Glasper.
Currently enjoying massive success with his fourth opus, titled Black Radio, Glasper’s appearance at the Highline Ballroom on February 28, was triumphant, for the most part.
Musically, Glasper, a Houston, Texas native, plays with a poise that belies his almost-34 years. However, one gets the feeling that live, the artist is still honing his craft, which isn’t a negative observation: a true artist is continually evolving and maturing as he strives for perfection. Along with his core band, consisting of drummer Mark Colenburg, bassist Derrick Hodge and Casey Benjamin on sax and vocals, Glasper fuses a pure jazz aesthetic with the subtle R&B sentiment. It is the boisterous jazz of youth. When it comes together, Glasper’s music is irresistibly engaging, explaining the runaway popularity of his current album.
The set list was a whirlwind of storming tunes, including a surprising cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” With Glasper delving into such disparate musical wells, you knew this was going to be an interesting night!
There were bumps, Bilal’s performance on the David Bowie-penned “Letter to Hermione” felt flat, though the audience seemed to enjoy it. Casey Benjamin’s vocals were lost in a sea of vocoder effects that simply didn’t translate as effectively in the live setting, as well as it does on wax.
Gripes aside, Lalah Hathaway‘s rendition of Sade’s exquisite ode, “Cherish The Day” was gorgeous. Chrisette Michele served up vocals on “Afro-Blue. Originally sung by Erykah Badu, Ms. Michele more than held her own with a powerhouse performance.
Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) turned in one of the night’s fiercest performances, proving to be showman extraordinaire. The audience was hypnotized by Bey’s presence and his monolithic stylings. When he was done with his epic showcase, Yasiin Bey simply kissed his mic and exited the stage to riotous applause.
With a show offering something for the jazz heads, as well as the uninitiated, Glasper is poised to truly crossover to the mainstream.
Produced By Jill Newman Productions & Second Son Productions | http://www.jillnewmanproductions.com/
By Madalyn Pak & June Joseph