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The Robert Glasper Experiment Comes to Pagoda Lounge With ‘Black Radio’

In Music
RobertGlasperbyMikeSchreiber

“We kill the alive to praise the dead,” is how Robert Glasper summed up the current jazz scene in his interview on NPR last week. In other words, if you can’t relate to jazz, he’s feeling you. And he’s making big waves for trying to change that, especially in the wake of his latest, shimmering genre-slam, Black Radio.

For sure, it’s one of the best records I’ve heard so far this year, but let’s bring a little realism to the hypefest for a moment. First, how can it be that in 2012 critics’ heads are still exploding at the notion of someone mixing hip-hop with jazz? That’s only been happening for three decades or so. Second, no one is going to confuse the “Lift Off” on Glasper’s record with the one on Jay-Z and Kanye’s. Despite the odd attempts by some to adopt him as some kind of de-facto rapper, Glasper is a freaking jazz pianist. There are only two real jazz-rap collaborations on Black Radio, “Always Shine” (with Lupe Fiasco and Bilal) and the title track (with Yaslin Bey). Of these, the latter is the most interesting—catchy and relentless, I’d go so far as to say it points a viable direction for both hop-hop and jazz to move toward.

The rest of the collabs with vocalists on the record are more neo-soul and R&B. They have a warm, gentle vibe, which is right in line with Glasper’s positive-vibration philosophy. There’s too much focus on the “Experiment” part of the Robert Glasper Experiment—let’s not forget that this is a real jazz record, and that’s what makes it one of a kind.

The Robert Glasper Experiment performs Fri., March 16 at Pagoda Lounge, San Jose, 8:30pm; $15.
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