On The Robert Glasper Experiment On Letterman : A Blog Supreme Singer Bilal and rapper Lupe Fiasco join the band in a performance of "Always Shine."
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Robert Glasper Experiment On Letterman

The Robert Glasper Experiment appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman last night, with singer Bilal and rapper Lupe Fiasco. The song is "Always Shine" from the new album Black Radio, with Robert Glasper, piano and electric piano; Casey Benjamin, synths and vocoder; Derrick Hodge, bass; Mark Colenburg, drums.

Some thoughts:

  1. Comparisons of Glasper's pianism to later Ahmad Jamal are so apt. (H/T to Willard Jenkins who pointed it out on Twitter yesterday.) The use of sustain pedal. Full, active, colorful comping. The periodic bursts of fluid right hand that tie themselves off just so. And who else can do the relaxed mood so well?
  2. Among jazz musicians I follow on Facebook or Twitter or the like, I am finding a common response to Glasper's recent buzz. Their delight in his success is often phrased as the triumph of "real musicians" in the public eye, or the hope that he can connect his obvious hard-won talent to wide approbation. Even if a particular musician doesn't know Glasper or love his recordings or run in his circles, many can recognize their own blood/sweat/tears, and their own embrace of current pop music, in what he's putting down. Not surprisingly, it's the same response I saw after Esperanza Spalding won the Best New Artist Grammy.
  3. That, and there's a pianist taking an improvised solo on national TV.
  4. The bootleg version comes without ads and you get Letterman's banter at the end: "Makes me want to start drinking again." I think that's a compliment?
  5. The Robert Glasper Experiment played a show on Tuesday night with Bilal and other guests. Musicians generally load in for the Late Show early in the morning for soundcheck before the daytime taping. If they look a bit tired, they probably are. And then they played another show last night, around when Letterman was airing.
  6. This is one of the better, or at least more natural-feeling mergers of jazz and hip-hop on record, at least that I can think of. But I'm still holding out for the rap-meets-live-band collaboration where a rich lyrical narrative aligns with a beat that actually cycles through a chord progression (not just a vamp or two-bar loop). This isn't to say the Experiment necessarily suffers in comparison to my hypothetical example, or that you can't make the most affecting music over a single pedal point. I'm just pointing out that I have yet to witness my proposed case executed well. (Perhaps you have?)
  7. I am so glad Casey Benjamin exists.

Same band minus Lupe was on WNYC's Soundcheck Monday. More thoughts on the new Glasper record here; interview with him here.