Robert Glasper is the leader of a new paradigm in jazz, with a career that spans musical and artistic genres, winning 3 Grammys and 6 nominations accros 5 categroies, as well as an Emmy for his song on Ava Duvernay’s doc “13th". Whilst his style consistently defies definition, October 2018 marks a return to one of his first jazz stomping-grounds, as he takes over the Blue Note New York with an unprecedented 4 week celebration of his musical career to date. Each show highlights not only a different era, but also a different part of his community - and the impact his collaborators have had on his development and style.
We open with a trio of Robert and his iconic rhythm section: Chris Dave and Derrick Hodge. They first came together in 2003, and soon became an seminal musical force; with Robert integrating them into Mos Def’s band, which he was Musical Director for at the time. Together they forged a sound that was not only the backdrop to the era’s hiphop and R&B stars (Nas, Maxwell, Common…and more!) - but also the vanguard of a new jazz flavour, which won a whole new audience with its genre-breaking style.
A step back in time takes us to Houston as Robert brings to the stage some of his hometown peers, who themselves make up some of jazz’s contemporary stars: Walter Smith III, Mike Moreno, Burniss Travis II and Kendrick Scott. Robert remembers: “we were winning competitions as the jazz combo at our high school – and then in the shed every day, sharpening our skills together”. These, then, are the jazz roots of the Robert Glasper generation; and a window into the evolution of a pedigree that can be heard across the scene today.
Glasper's show with Christian McBride and Nicholas Payton is an homage to the generation of Young Lions - as well as a recognition of the opportunities they provided a young Glasper. “McBride was the first major artist I toured with when I moved to NYC; he had to call my mom every night after shows to let her know I was ok! And Nicholas was my second major gig…I failed a lot of classes because I was on the road instead of at college…but I learned a lot!”. Here Glasper speaks to a jazz lineage that crosses generations; the bridges from one era to another, and the solidarity and support that abounds between musicians of all ages.
Everything’s beautiful showcases the Miles Davis body of work that Robert refers to as the pinnacle of his career. “Miles is the original poster-boy for change and for evolving the music - and not giving a f**k! So making an album that helped him chart higher than he ever had before outside jazz [it hit #9 on the Billboard R&B charts] was massive for me”. Here Glasper is joined by his long-time brother in arms, on and off stage, Bilal. “Bilal was another huge reason I crossed over into these non-jazz spaces; I was his MD when he got signed and we were constantly in spaces with Jill [Scott], Erykah [Badu], The Roots all those cats”. These shows demonstrate the constantly shifting way in which Glasper sees, experiences, and creates music - drawing from multiple legacies, lineages and even eras to build something completely his own.
"It was always important to me to include a tribute to 'Grew - he gave me my very first jazz lesson!” 15 years later, Miller was to write one half of the liner notes of Robert’s “In my Element” (in classically Glasper style, the other half were written by Mos Def) – and continued to be both a supporter of and an inspiration to Robert until his death in 2014. Rodney Green, Mulgrew’s long time drummer, would also go on to introduce him to Derrick Hodge in 2003. Here they come together to celebrate the life of their mentor, and the impact he had on their lives and music.
Robert's most recent and most ambitious project yet:R+R=Now, brings together collaborators old and new with a mission of musical innovation and social action. Inspired by Nina Simone's conviction that “an artist's job is to reflect the times”, Robert asks “how could we do anything else, right now?!” With a line up of Terrace Martin, Christian Scott, Derrick Hodge, Justin Tyson and Taylor McFerrin, the hip-hop-head-nod is their anthem, but so too is a message: the beauty and brilliance of a jazz heritage that is as much Kendrick as it is Coltrane. It is then, a fitting way to draw to an end a month of musical innovation past, present and future.Through their music, their ideas and their brotherhood, R+R=now; with Robert Glasper at the helm; represent the creativity that has changed the world – and will continue to do so.