Music review: Robert Glasper Experiment, Village Underground, London
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Tuesday 30 July 2013
Many fans see the Robert Glasper Experiment as jazz’s future, and last year’s hip-hop and R&B-inflected, guest-star-heavy album Black Radio as its Trojan Horse back into the black music mainstream.
Glasper has since won this year’s Grammy for Best R&B album, and certainly gets a younger, blacker crowd than anyone else on the jazz circuit. Black Radio’s title track, though, protests too much about the state of the title's medium for a record which itself verges on the insipid. And pianist Glasper, who led a straight acoustic jazz trio for two Blue Note albums before Double-Booked’s hip-hop half-way house and Black Radio’s full hybrid, harks back to conscious soul-jazz of forty years ago in his music and message. His desire to refresh jazz’s language is admirable, but shouldn’t be overstated.
The crowd at this Shoreditch ex-warehouse anyway ranges from twentysomething hip-hop fans to Simon Callow, as the Experiment start with jazz’s favourite rock band Radiohead’s “Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box”. Their most potentially divisive element, Casey Benjamin’s heavily vocodered vocals, are barely present on Black Radio, which is dominated by guest nu-soul singers such as Erykah Badu. But he is crucial to Glasper’s radical desires, the one truly unusual thread in music whose individual strands break little ground. Visually startling as well, with a quiff, slick black leather jacket and beard, when Benjamin switches to sturdy sax soloing on Sade’s “Cherish the Day” he resembles a bebop rock’n’roller.
The Experiment’s busily simmering virtuosity would pass muster as straight jazz, bassist Derek Hodge’s melodic soloing especially. But it’s when the church-raised Glasper’s chiming minor chords let a song slow to a ruminative standstill, or their crowd-sung anthem “Ah Yeah” ends in meditative repetition, that his music becomes more powerful than its parts. Elsewhere it can drift, as ideas are sluggishly dragged into position.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is remodelled as a robo-ballad, and the most sacred chant in jazz’s prayer-book, John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, is sacrilegiously vocodered. Glasper’s genre-straddling position is shown best, though, by the way he keeps putting off the pure hip-hop section of a gig whose improvisatory passages heavily mark it as jazz, till the crowd’s laughs turn restless. Playing the London Jazz Festival last year, Glasper tried to provoke that constituency too. At its best, the music tonight moved between his two worlds.
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
Arts & Ents blogs
The desolation of the Weinstein brothers: Film producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
Christmas songs: the best and the worst
Your Money, Money, Money please - Abba ask fans for £195 pledges on direct-to-fan website
Not all right on the night
Lost Peter Sellers films Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia Is Good for You hailed as the movie equivalent of 'finding Dead Sea Scrolls'
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
- 2 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 3 Australia: Gay marriage law reversed by high court less than a week after first weddings
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- < Previous
- Next >