Thursday, September 03, 2009

Robert Glasper - Double Booked (Blue Note, 2009)

Pianist and composer Robert Glasper is a multi-faceted musician who enjoys many different genres of music. On this album, he uses two different ensembles, The Robert Glasper Trio which plays acoustic jazz and The Robert Glasper Experiment which combines jazz, hip-hop and soul music. The first half of the album features the acoustic trio with Vicente Archer on bass and Chris Dave on drums. The trio has a nice flowing melodic concept to their music, and "No Worries" is a nice example of this with the group playing well integrated modern jazz. "Yes I’m Country (And That’s O.k.)" has a gentle yearning melody, and a light and flowing improvisation that reminds me of some of Keith Jarrett's music from the early 1970's. "Downtime" spotlights a nice bass solo and some fine brushwork on a mellow groove. The highlight of the album for me was a rousing performance of the Thelonious Monk classic "Think of One" with the group playing a rapidly shifting improvisation that hints at the melody in a unique and thoughtful manner. "Butterfly" opens the electric side of the album, with Casey Benjamin on saxophone, Derrick Hodge on electric bass, Chris Dave on drums, Jahi Sundance on turntables, and Bilal and Mos Def on vocals. The use of vocals distorted with a vocoder recalls 70's experimental records by Herbie Hancock (Feets Don't Fail Me Now) and Neil Young (Trans.) Glasper chips in a nice Fender Rhodes electric piano solo. "Festival" is the highlight of the Glasper Experiment tracks with some really nice saxophone and funky drumming adding some much needed energy to the music. "For You" has the vocoder returning for some music that sounds surprisingly tame. "All Matter" drops the distortion for soulful vocals over an an instrumental backdrop, and "Open Mind" finishes things up with a slow vibe featuring some recorded spoken word in the mix followed by wordless live vocals. Although I admire Glasper's willingness to experiment, for me the most interesting tracks were the ones recorded by the acoustic trio. They had a nimble and fresh nature that kept the music interesting and compelling. By contrast, the music by the Glasper Experiment seemed forced at times with the use of the vocoder giving the music a timelocked and dated feel. In the end it was a bit of a mixed bag, and the split dualism of the album may make it difficult to appeal to either straight ahead jazz or R&B partisans.
Double Booked -

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