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Friday, December 09, 2005

Robert Glasper

26-year old pianist Robert Glasper is the latest addition to the Blue Note stable of artists, and a welcome addition at that. He’s spent the majority of his career as an accompanist for notable vocalists across jazz, hip-hop and R&B genres (Carmen Lundy, Q-Tip, Bilal, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Mos Def) as well as a sideman for a number of today’s top-notch jazzers (Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride). He debuted as a leader in 2004 with Mood (Fresh Sound, New Talent), and now we get a taste of his still-forming identity on Canvas.

Glasper’s major label debut is mainly a trio record, though Bilal and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner are featured on a couple tracks. This New School University grad started playing piano in several churches in Houston where he grew up, but he always tries to vary the flavor of his performance today. He recently told Downbeat Magazine, "You've got to have a balance. Church can be a bad habit; everything you play can sound like a church chord if you don't know how to get out of it." Knowing this, Glasper blends his gospel background with some slick harmonies and deft interplay. He shows a penchant for the modern lyricism and technique of Aaron Goldberg or Renee Rosnes and tries to further the tradition of interplay in the vein of the Keith Jarrett’s standards trio or the Hancock/Carter/Williams triumvirate – power matched with communication. He’s got chops to burn, but melodic ideas are clearly foremost in his mind.

Buy Canvas!

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