wed 13/12/2017

CD: Robert Glasper – Covered | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Robert Glasper – Covered

CD: Robert Glasper – Covered

New material gets vintage jazz treatment as Glasper marks ten years at Blue Note

Covered: tunes, virtuosity, and something important to say

Robert Glasper has recently been making a name, and winning Grammys with his electronic fusion outfit, the Robert Glasper Experiment. After years of Casey Benjamin’s croaking vocoder on the Black Radio albums, the pealing acoustic notes of Glasper’s conventional trio are almost a surprise. Also novel by Glasper’s standards is the source material: there’s only one standard, “Stella By Starlight”. Many of the rest of are, as the title suggests, covers. While the sound of Glasper’s trio is fairly traditional, with his choice of tracks he’s clearly reaching out far beyond the jazz comfort zone: Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, and Kendrick Lamar all feature, as does veteran calypso singer Harry Belafonte, voicing over on “Got Over”.

Glasper’s caustic frustration with the jazz world’s navel-gazing (“I feel like jazz needs a big-ass slap,” he wrote in DownBeat in 2012) might imply a radical approach, but in many cases Glasper plays it fairly straight. For all the novelty of the choices, Glasper’s concept of jazz technique is appealingly traditional, with firecracker solos and outbursts of vigorous melody like the rainbow after the storm. Joni Mitchell’s “Barangrill”, Radiohead’s “Reckoner” and Musiq Soulchild’s “So Beautiful” have a charming melodic lilt, their themes left to speak for themselves, with only a subtle Glasperisation. “Stella By Starlight”, by contrast, is worked over much more rigorously, in keeping with its jazz familiarity.

Belafonte’s contribution, a defiant assertion of black cultural identity, and the closing song, Lamar’s “I’m Dying of Thirst”, in which children recite the names of black victims of police shootings, are both unimpeachable statements, but the use of the very old and very young can’t help but verge on the mawkish. Yet here, as with the arrangements, there’s something refreshingly clear-eyed about Glasper’s approach. In many ways, this album recalls the time jazz was a genuinely popular music, with tunes, virtuosity, and something important to say.

Glasper’s concept of jazz technique is appealingly traditional, with firecracker solos and outbursts of vigorous melody like the rainbow after the storm

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