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Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
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Patricia Barber
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Cirque Du Soleil
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Jim Pearce
“Why I Haven't Got You”
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Ralph Towner
Time Line
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Anoushka Shankar

Amos Lee
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Julius Curcio
"American Pie"
Alligator Shoes
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Spotlights [Issue # 25 ]
Robert Glasper: In My Element

By Jason Sklar

What’s the link between Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” and Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage?” Better put, the question should ask, “Not what, but who?” The answer: boundary-pushing, hip-hop infused jazz pianist Robert Glasper.

While the popular music world showcases “mash-ups” by the likes of hard-core rock band Linkin Park and rapper Jay-Z, jazz artists like Glasper apply a more sophisticated subtlety when marrying disparate tunes. Similar to pianist Brad Mehldau’s attraction to Radiohead, Glasper notes how the tunes are both melodically and time signature friendly. United on In My Element, the combination of Hancock plus Radiohead represents pages torn from the new American Songbook – Version 2.0. Seven minutes and forty seconds in, this selection drifts elsewhere. It fades into a what-was-that? outro with haunting piano sketches and living room percussion provided by drummers Greg Hutchinson and Chris Dave, who here trade drum sticks for a token spoon, glass, and pencil. This is followed by a voicemail that encourages recording J Dilla hip-hop joints and then drops into a beat at the end of a Live performance by Glasper’s trio. “I love interludes,” says Glasper. “They’re just little snippets that work and you want to hear more. They [Interludes] allow you to crush the aspirin in the OJ and give it to the baby -- subliminally and casually.” Glasper always tells the engineer to keep the tape rolling when in the studio. A few of the interludes sprouted on the spot yielding a fresh jive that escapes any intoxicating edits. This interplay between studio and concert recordings adds to the album’s raw energy, and ups the authenticity tenfold. So often, the roots of a jazz album are hidden, but here, Glasper shares some of the makings of In My Element in the context of the album.

In 2005, Blue Note released Robert Glasper’s debut on the label with Canvas, an equally hip, yet more composed album. While Canvas contained more composition and special guests, In My Element centers more on the trio. Bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid continue to round out the sound. While Glasper rightfully declines to compare himself to other artists or cite laundry lists of specific influences, he cautiously describes the ‘Glasper sound.’ With slight jest, he defines his sound as “What I hear people say.” But with some prodding, Glasper offers that his is an original sound that reflects today’s generation. “The jazz tradition is present, yet I’ve taken what I have learned and molded it into my own sound,” he says.

While the album is intended for the under 35 crowd, it has the jazz staples that a traditional audience may appreciate. Spanning gospel to hip-hop, Glasper seamlessly intertwines genres to make them his own, without utterly dismantling what qualifies them as distinct styles in the first place.

Whether teasing J Dilla hooks or covering saxophonist Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice,” Glasper honors artists in the traditional jazz form. Although some artists have integrated electronics and fancy editing techniques to merge the classic and the modern, Glasper does so with new material presented through traditional instruments. He strives to bridge the gap between the music and younger audiences without incorporating looping or pre-recorded harmonic jargon. “I don’t need a DJ,” he remarks. “Electronics and mixing just trick some people into thinking it’s good.” Clearly, the trance-like, even meditative vibe supplies grooves that catapult one’s mind to a different plane. “I just like to be in the space,” he qualifies. “I take people in the space with me and aim to evoke emotions out of people. Some engage in musical orgasms all at once, playing fast and choppy. This approach does not evoke emotions.” Glasper sets his sights on feelings generated by a listen to Miles Davis and Bill Evans’ “Blue in Green” off Kind of Blue.

At times, jazz artists may practice classical music to get their touch together. But Glasper is just in tune with the music. “I’m spiritual,” he says. “The touch is gonna be there for me.” With Glasper’s natural touch, and killin’ drums and bass, let’s hope the group keeps on keepin’ on.

In My Element
Blue Note/EMI

In My Element Robert Glasper In My Element

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