thu 25/07/2024

CD: Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio

CD: Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio

With his fourth album for Blue Note, the US pianist may have produced a crossover smash

Exploring the art of the song: the Robert Glasper Experiment

Where the creative interconnections between hip hop, jazz and soul are concerned, Robert Glasper proves himself a master on Black Radio. Featuring an impressive roll call of guest singers and rappers, the pianist has finally made the album which brings together all of his musical predilections into a single whole, and the results are outstanding.

With three Blue Note albums in the bag - Canvas (2005), In My Element (2007) and the Grammy-nominated Double Booked (2009) - the pianist clearly feels he's demonstrated his bona fide jazz chops, and devotes this first full-length album from his Experiment project to the art of the song, rather than the solo.

The Glasper aesthetic is clearly laid out on Mongo Santamaria's classic “Afro Blue”. Ironing out the song's characteristic cross-rhythms into a ridiculously smooth 4/4 groove (take a bow, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Chris Dave), the call-and-response exchanges between vocalist Erykah Badu and flautist Casey Benjamin possess a hypnotic beauty. Glasper's understated piano filigree provides the proverbial icing.

A remarkable reimagining of Sade's “Cherish the Day” features the all-enveloping vocals of Lalah Hathaway and a bass line that's so far off the stave it's felt more as subliminal presence than pitch, the whole bathed in a kind of ambient glow. “Consequence of Jealousy” sees the unruffled surfaces of Meshell Ndegeocello's light-as-air vocal occasionally threatened by turntablist interjections, while the Afrobeat twist given to “Why Do We Try”, sung by Mint Condition's Stokley Williams, is another highlight in an album that's full of them.

A reharmonised and very free, almost jam band treatment of Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit” provides the dramatic sign-off, with Benjamin's vocodered vocal riding out on an ecstatic wave of intensity, before the energy dissipates entirely in a blissed out, half-time coda. It's an imaginative tour de force.

Watch a clip about the making of Black Radio:

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