Jazz Showcase – Chicago, IL, USA – September 11, 2016
Review by Maja Rios
Pianist, Robert Glasper, started his set at the Chicago’s renown Jazz Showcase with about a ten minute monologue of music jokes and ‘hip talk’ that was barely audible on a mike that probably should have been turned up. This was a bit distracting as the audience anticipated music rather than a lot of dialogue. However, once the music started the full capacity Jazz Showcase venue of more ethnically and age diverse audience than usual, it gave a testament to the current popularity of spoken word, mixed with instrumental background jazz, that is popular with the under 40 fans. Though not a new idea, it was somewhat effective departure from strictly just music.
Robert Glasper mostly performed originals from his CDs. The songs were smooth instrumental jazz and hip hop grooves. I especially loved his drummer, Damion Reid, who brought jazz-related material into the new age with his ‘beat box rhythms’ on the high hat. Bassist, Vincente Archer, laid down rather simple heavy grooves on upright bass to Robert Glasper’s musical compositions.
Robert Glasper did one arrangement of a Prince song, “Sign of the Times” that the audience seemed to devour. It song was a fast, funky groove, with hip hop drum beats, which sealed the deal. I especially liked the original song by Glasper with spoken word monologue of famous singer, actor, and activist, Harry Belafonte, sampled over an R&B-flavored groove. Harry Belafonte repeated the phrase, “I am one of color who got over.” His monologue spoke of Black History in America, that I thought was very effective with jazz grooves underneath.
From Robert Glasper’s popular CD, Black Radio, he played his original vocal composition, “It Will Be Alright” as an instrumental. Originally sung by R&B vocalist, Ledesi, it worked as a smooth instrumental groove.
Robert Glasper then ended his set with an arrangement of a Musiq Soulchild song that went on a little long.
I would have liked to have heard a vocalist with him, as his simple grooves are very ‘vocal friendly.’
No jazz standards of any kind were performed during his set. I would have liked to have heard one of his renditions from the Black Radio CD, that he done to Afro-Blue. I feel that Robert Glasper is capable of reinterpreting more classic material like Afro-Blue in the future. That would greatly enhance his sets of mostly original music. All in all, I enjoyed the possibilities of jazz material in a futuristic setting.