Saturday, April 11, 2015

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Tuning in to Robert Glasper

This week, let's take a look at some video clips featuring keyboardist Robert Glasper, who's bringing his group the Experiment back to St. Louis to perform Wednesday, April 22 and Thursday, April 23 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Glasper, a native of Houston who turned 37 just last week, will be returning here for the first time since making his local debut in February 2012 at the Bistro. (That first gig was a long time in the making. Jazz St. Louis had booked him previously on two separate occasions in 2009, but dates in February 2009 were canceled because Glasper's wife was due to deliver a baby, and an attempt to reschedule in October of that year fell through when Glasper put his own band on hold to do a tour backing up R&B singer Maxwell.)

As it turned out, 2012 was a watershed year for Glasper, as the release of his album Black Radio, with its synthesis of jazz, funk, neo-soul and hip-hop influences, attracted wide attention beyond the jazz world, scored a Grammy Award for "Best R&B Album," and brought in lots of new fans. The sequel Black Radio 2, released in the fall of 2013, continued in the same vein. It contained a version of Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children of America," with vocals from Lalah Hathaway and Malcolm Jamal Warner, that wound up winning another Grammy for "Best Traditional R&B Performance."

At the time, there was some fairly predictable grumbling that the Black Radio albums were essentially pop, not jazz, but that seems to have died down over the last 12 months or so, with the Experiment's approach seeming to gain wider acceptance, or at least acquiescence, among many of those who previously were skeptical.

After all, jazz musicians have been offering their own interpretations of popular music from the very beginning of the genre, and Glasper is doing the same thing, just drawing on the music of his particular time. Interestingly though, his next album Covered, set for release in June, will feature his acoustic piano trio reunited in the studio for the first time since his 2007 recording In The Element.

Here in St. Louis, the Experiment's upcoming shows also will include some specifically local flavor: St. Louisan Mark Colenburg has been a regular member of the band for a couple of years now, taking over the drum chair after the departure of Chris Dave, and trumpeter and fellow St. Louis native Keyon Harrold also will be on hand for both nights as a special guest performer.

Unfortunately, there's not much footage online of Harrold sitting in with Glasper (except for the example already posted here), so today, we're just going to serve up a sampling of recent performances from the Experiment, all recorded since Glasper's last appearance here.

Up top, there are four songs from the 2013 North Sea Jazz Festival, as Glasper and the Experiment offer an eclectic collection of covers including Radiohead's "Packt Like Sardines," Kanye West and Jay-Z's "No Church In The Wild," Sade's "Cherish The Day," and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."

After the jump, you can see and hear their appearance in January of last year on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert. That's singer Marsha Ambrosius, formerly of the group Floetry, with Glasper, Colenburg and bassist Derrick Hodge as they perform "Trust," a brief impromptu bit dubbed "NPR Tiny Desk Jam," and "F.T.B. (Gonna Be Alright)." (Not sure where saxophonist and synth player Casey Benjamin was that day, but perhaps his rig simply wouldn't fit into the available space.)

The next clip is another performance from 2013, featuring the Experiment playing "Big Girl Body" live on Los Angeles NPR affiliate KCRW. After that, you can check out the official music video for "I Stand Alone," another cut from Black Radio 2 that includes contributions from the rapper Common and Patrick Stump of the rock group Fall Out Boy. That's followed by a excerpt from a live performance at The Mint in Los Angeles with singer Jill Scott, another of Black Radio 2's guest stars.

The last two videos both were recorded in 2013 in Atlanta. There's a full set from the Experiment's performance at the Center Stage Theater, followed by an informal Q&A session they did for a local not-for-profit group, the Schemes and Dreams Foundation.

For more about the Robert Glasper Experiment, and the effect that the Black Radio albums have had on his career, check out this conversation Glasper had last year with Interview magazine, and this interview, published last year by (believe it or not) the department store Nordstrom's as part of a catalog supplement.

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

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