on March 3, 2012
Jazz for the new millennium - excellently done! Someone here said their mother was 55 and didn't think the drumbeats appropriate for jazz. Well I'm 56 and I think everything about this cd is slammin! It harkens back to the progressive jazz days when guys like Lonnie Listen Smith, Roy Ayers, and George Duke were doing some amazing things. There's always been a dispute between jazz purists and jazz progressives. Miles Davis made a progressive album (Man With The Horn) and you would've thought the universe had turned upside down. Good music is good music, and this cd is some seriously good music.
on February 28, 2012
There was wonderful renaissance of neo-soul music that peaked in the 90s and was a wonderful soundtrack for the lives of urban contemporary music lovers. Robert Glasper is undoubtedly and purely inspired by the music of that era. A hybrid of soft jazz, hip-hop, and R&B, Black Radio is the soul music lover's 'Hearts of Space' odyssey. It is the F.M. dial to beautiful music that I could not recommend more highly.
He has drawn in some of the most respected musicians (Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu, Ledisi, Bilal to name a few) to contribute their talents to what will be one of my favorite albums this year. I hate to highlight any songs in particular because the entire album is consistently wonderful from beginning to end - so I won't.
It's intriguing that two of my favorite musicians, Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding, are releasing CDs this year with the word 'radio' in the albums' titles. (Esperanza's CD is entitled 'Radio Music Society'). With so much music becoming popular based on spectacle and ridiculous antics (as he touches upon at the end of "Gonna Be Alright"), it's refreshing and reassuring that artists like these are keeping the focus on musicianship. Black Radio is Robert Glasper at his best!
on February 28, 2012
I've always had an admiration of artists who attempt to cross the boundaries of their genre and venture out of their comfort zone to indulge in something new and exciting, not only for them but for their audience as well. This admiration is punctuated by the fact that not everyone who does this is successful at it. In fact, in my experience I've seen more failures and mediocre offerings then I have anything else (see The Hip Hop Violinist [Explicit]). That being said, Robert Glasper's Black Radio has definitely taken its place among the ranks of high quality music.
Being new to Robert Glasper, I admit that I was drawn in by the promise of the plethora of guest appearances by familiar faces, such as Musiq Soul Child, Lela Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Yassin Bey (aka Mos Def), Erykah Badu, Ledisi, and Bilal. Fortunately, I found that Glasper's ability to tastefully spread out the various talents found on this project is worthy of praise. With twelve different guest artists on an album, it can easily start to feel crowded like there's too much going on at once. Instead, what we're given as the final product is a euphoric blend of Jazz, Neo-Soul and Hip Hop that I can cool out to in the car with my speakers up, or vibe to at a live performance.
Each song seemed to be tailored (and most likely was) to the individual artists that appeared on them, but still making it very clear in its sound that this was Robert Glasper's album, not a compilation of sounds taken from different places. The integrity of Glasper's work is never compromised of overshadowed by any of the guest artists, only accentuated by energy their voices bring to each track. From beginning to end, it feels like listening to a live set that you don't want to leave your seat for.
Being primarily a Hip Hop head, I was particularly interested in how Lupe and Mos Def would be incorporated into the music, since both have stepped into the realms beyond their genre's as well. Thankfully, their presence was utilized well, making their performances sound genuinely organic. I found Mos's track "Black Radio" especially interesting, as he seemed very much at home from what I've heard from him in past works (see New Danger which is full of examples). Staying true to the idea of this being an "experiment," both Mos and the intstrumentation fly off in the the stratosphere playing off each other with varying tempos and vocal play from Mos himself that I find hard to describe in any other way but "interesting." By no means is it a bad thing, just worthy of note, and clearly he makes the track his own.
Overall, Black Radio is a solid body of work, fluid in its composition yet bold enough to make you stay and listen. Robert Glasper, despite being labeled simply as a Jazz musician, has successfully achieved crossing genre's and bringing different elements back to his own realm, giving us new and unique music to enjoy that will not disapoint. Having been thoroughly impressed by his latest work, I'll definitely be checking out his earlier stuff as well, and I'd encourage anyone else to do the same. Enjoy.
on February 28, 2012
I received a review copy of this album a while ago, and have been highly recommending it ever since!
Robert Glasper is one of those rare musicians with the uncanny ability to see beyond what has been done and get straight to the heart of what is possible. He was once described as "one of the most promising Jazz pianists for a generation", and this album sees him enter a class of his own!
'Black Radio' represents a "a true crossover record", as Glasper himself put it. It's an amalgam of all the Jazz, Gospel, Soul, and Hip Hop traditions Glasper was raised in. With his Experiment band Casey Benjamin (Sax), Derrick Hodge (Bass), and Chris Dave (Drums), Glasper's `Black Radio' represents a clear progression from his fragmented 2009 offering `Double Booked', which saw half an album dedicated to Jazz and half to Hip Hop. These half-hearted attempts to incorporate Hip Hop into his music appear to be a thing of the past as he embraces all of his influences for his third Blue Note offering, which is sure to serve as an example of how Jazz/Hip Hop crossover should be done.
Glasper and his cohort are individuals pigeon-holed as `Jazz Musicians' that have now proven their reach beyond that or any other Genre. Tasteful isn't a word that can be used to describe many cross-over albums, but it is perfect in this case. Concessions are made in all the right places to ensure that perceptions and expectations are thrown out of the window in favor of the only thing that matters - The quality of The Music.
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The Robert Glasper Experiment hit a big-time home run with Black Radio, an album that fuses jazz, R&B/soul, and hip-hop. The Robert Glasper Experiment itself is comprised of Glasper (Rhodes, piano), Casey Benjamin (flute, sax, vocoder), Derrick Hodges (electric bass), and Chris Dave (drums). Glasper himself is hailed as one of today's preeminent jazz pianists, who also has a great love for urban music. Glasper has toured with Maxwell and contributed keyboard work on Bilal's Grammy-nominated "All Matter", from album Airtight's Revenge. All said, every song on Black Radio, an album released just shy of a year ago, has a story, possesses abstractions, and experimental tendencies. A year after purchasing and listening gradually, if inconsistently, there is no question why Glasper easily locked up a Grammy win for Best R&B Album at the 55th Grammy Awards February 10th, 2013.
"Lift Off/Mic Check" opens the effort playing up the jazz aspects, featuring angularity and changes of groove and time signature. Shafiq Husayn provides narration, setting up the premise of the experimental effort. The second half of the cut, "Mic Check", features Erykah Badu and the members of The Experiment testing the mic as suggested ahead of "Afro Blue". Why that's a big deal? The approach of the testing can be likened to jazz soloists shedding , which adds to the authenticity.
"Afro Blue" features Erykah Badu in top form, honing in on her inner Billie Holiday. Casey Benjamin's flute as well as Glasper's EP complements Badu superbly. On "Cherish The Day", guest Lalah Hathaway's rich, sultry alto captivates. Throughout, Glasper accentuates the cut with thoughtful minimalistic lines and ideas on piano, while Benjamin compels on saxophone. A neo-soul/hip-hop merge comes together on the exceptional "Always Shine" in which Lupe Fiasco easily spits atop an urban-jazz groove. Bilal caps things off with his typical rich, soulful vocals on the hook. As always, the Experiment holds things down, serving as both an excellent backdrop and as a creative force, be it Glasper's piano lines, Hodges's buttressing bass, or Dave's melodic treatment of drum set.
On "Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)", Glasper takes a cut entitled "F.T.B." from album In My Element and combines it with lyrics penned and sung by R&B standout Ledisi. The results are smooth jazz and urban music at their finest, even garnering the track a Grammy nomination for R&B performance. King guests on the sensual "Move Love", featuring some distinguished piano improvisations by Glasper, particularly at the end as the cut fades. On "Ah Yeah", Glasper brings together two of R&B's finest in Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele. The chemistry, as expected, is simply ridiculous with Musiq honing in on his low register and Michelle sounding like a mix between Billie Holliday and Sarah Vaughn. As always, Glasper lends his voice through excellent pianistic improvisations.
"The Consequences of Jealousy" features Me'Shell Ndegéocello in arguably the effort's most alt-R&B contribution. Dark and mysterious, "The Consequences of Jealousy" sounds very much like a tone poem towards the message suggested by its title. "Why Do We Try" brings in Mint Condition's Stokely Williams, who doesn't dare disappoint vocally. Even so, Casey Benjamin's vocoder might steal the show, collaborating alongside Williams capably. Add adventurous playing by Glasper - displacing rhythms against the groove established by bass and drums - and you have a crowing achievement by all means.
"Black Radio" may have a hard act to follow, but it does so capably. Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) guests here both rapping and singing. Mos Def is the perfect collaborator for Glasper and company, given his dabbling in jazz-rap and alt-rap in his storied past career. The final cuts are rock covers; "Letter to Hermione" (David Bowie) and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Nirvana). Bilal guests on "Letter to Hermione" which features Casey Benjamin on flute. Casey Benjamin takes the spotlight on the most unique cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" you may ever hear, using vocoder.
Ultimately, Black Radio is a masterpiece. The cast is well assembled and the musicianship is nothing short of both alluring and exceptional. There are no misses and no holes in this set. Had this album not been acknowledged at the Grammys, that would've been the travesty. 4 ½ enthusiastic stars.
on May 15, 2013
I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered this CD earlier this year. I'd read the rave reviews and was intrigued, but I'd never heard anything by Glasper previously, and I'm not much of a hip-hop fan. But I love the old Blue Note jazz albums and am a huge fan of 60s and 70s soul, totally worship genre-bending artists like Gil Scott-Heron, as well listen to tons of pop and rock music. So, I have pretty broad tastes in music and thought: why not take a chance on this one? Well, I don't love it all, but I like the mix of musical styles and the daring way that Glasper presents everything on this album. To my ears there's not much jazz on here, but then again that depends on how you define the genre. Instead, this is like an urban music buffet: a bit of hip-hop, some jazz touches, a lot of soul grooves, and a bit of rock (he does some interesting covers of songs by David Bowie and Nirvana, as well as jazzier tunes by Sade and Mongo Santamaria). At times, Glasper's piano is unneccessarly buried under a wall of beats and vocals, but other times, his subtle riffs are easier to hear, and appreciate. Favorites on this CD include the lovely "Cherish the Day," the soaring "Why Do We Try" with vocals by Stokley, and the clever cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Listen to this album with an open mind and you'll find these songs becoming part of your soul. Quite impressive
on March 25, 2012
This is a beautiful album, no question. I love it! But, it has been mis-categorized as jazz. It is not jazz. Why can't a great jazz musician like Robert Glasper cross over and get paid every so often? Herbie Hancock did it, as did Miles, and many other great ones. There are a few cuts where he hints at his prowess as a great jazz improvisor, but that still doesn't make this album jazz. You could even go so far as to say that he teaches a little bit about jazz to a more mainstream audience with cuts like the jazzy rendition of Afro Blue with my girl Erykah Badu on the mic. Maybe some will listen to this lovely work of art and use it as a stepping stone to real jazz. This is a beautiful album, something to chill out to and I hope Robert makes enough on it to return to the unrewarding career of a jazz musician. Kudos to you, Robert, but don't forget to come home.
on April 9, 2013
Okay this is a great albulm, however, There are certain songs that are completly ruined by the annoying talking sessions at the end of the song, it completly kills the groove. They should have put the speaking sessions as seperate tracks. After the first time of hearing the sessions, it is enough. If you put your favorite song on repeat, you have to hear them talking at the end of the song.
on August 14, 2014
He called it “experimentation for meditation.” On the sixth project for jazz pianist Robert Glasper and the first full-length debut project for his electric jazz band, the Robert Glasper Experiment, on Blue Note, the soothing music is consistently zen enough to allow for spiritual elevation and introspection, if not simply a cozy night’s sleep. Glasper on keys, bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Chris Dave, and sax and vocoder man, Casey Benjamin, are mood men who create a formalwear atmosphere while maintaining their chic boho street cred for the East Coast backpack set. On an amalgamation of genres and sounds—from astral jazz to hip hop to electronica to soul—these musical men imagine what the future of Black Radio could be once free from genre boundaries and formatting constraints. The results are soothing, moving (if emotionally understated), and undeniably accomplished. Yet, with smooth radio jams like “Ah Yeah (featuring Musiq and Chrisette Michelle),” it is also considerably more accessible and creatively safe than the band’s “experimental” moniker might lead newcomers to believe, following a path that while different is not without its precedents.
Black Radio will surely be hailed as the Sweetback and Jazzamatazz for this age. Though given its neo-soul overlays and emphasis on mood, those less musically informed might liken it to the Love Jones Soundtrack (if only there were a film for Glasper’s cinematic sounds to score). These are not disses, as each of these albums proved cultural markers and standard bearers that later musicians would seek to emulate with varying results for decades since. Each of the before-mentioned albums blurred genre lines, utilized the commercial appeal of esteemed soul singers, highlighted the musicality of conscious hip hop vocalists, and boasted strong jazz soundscapes while still incorporating the urbane sounds of their times. Black Radio, like Sweetback, privileges atmosphere and mood over traditional song structure and formulaic arrangement. Like Guru’s Jazzmatazz series, there are performance art and hip hop elements that gives originals like “Black Radio (feat. Mos Def)” and covers like the Cuban classic “Afro Blue (feat. Erykah Badu)” an edge and attitude that illuminates what was more subdued in the original. Unlike a rash of similar, more DJ produced releases from jazz labels like Blue Note, Impulse and Verve in the mid-to-late 90s, each intended to capitalize on the then new urban cool of Black Bohemia and its attendants, the Robert Glasper Experiment is more far melodically and harmonically musical, inclusive of some neo-astral jazz that liberally borrows from the revivalist fascination with spacey, intergalactic electronica.
Houston-born, New School-trained Robert Glasper and his band of merry jazz men have also never been this accessible, not even on the more radio-ready tracks of Double Booked. Like the Love Jones soundtrack, Glasper’s team invites many of today’s pedigree voices of the underground's esteemed to their elegant table, those considered commercially recognizable musicians’ musicians or new indie darlings, like the suddenly much in-demand girl trio, KING. Though there is a whiff of record label gamesmanship in following the proven, two-decade long trend of hedging your financial bets by hiring soul stars to guest on contemporary jazz projects, Glasper actually uses his vocalists to their benefit rather than his own. There are no exclusively background “ohhs” and “ahhs” over jazz play or hired hook singers just to slap these artists’ names on the CD; instead each is given full songs and arrangement prominence. And, while the call makes for an exceedingly enjoyable listening experience, one cannot help but wonder if Glasper and the gang shorted themselves and modern jazz fans in the process by overly privileging the singers over the music.
Far too often the presence of Glasper’s men is only overtly heard in the margins and around the edges of these singers’ cuts. Consistently opening and closing songs with dazzling instrumentations that recede to the background whenever the vocalists takes center stage, the musicians break serious sweats underneath and around each song’s melody lines for those who care enough to lean in to hear. Granted the singers are operating in an environment that is all the Robert Glasper Experiment, and it is a very elegant if not always compelling environment Glasper and his folks have painted. But, as is wont to happen whenever singers are near, without intentional listener effort, the human voice steals the focus, distracting from the instrumental geniuses toiling on the background, making the whole composition work on the singer’s and listener’s behalf. Black Radio is no different. Blessedly, there is not a bum lead in the mix, each more than meeting their demanding tasks while also humbling themselves to the fact that they should ideally be serving the whole rather than themselves.
Setting the Black Radio stage is electrosoul artist Shafiq Husayn’s rich, streetwise baritone nicely MCing the band’s introduction against a backdrop of vocoder, electronic elements, Glasper’s contemplative keys, and Chris Dave’s playfully evolving drums before yielding to an artist menagerie of candidly humorous mic checks. The intro’s strutting rhythms and bumping hip hop drums are joined by whistling woodwinds and by a straight-ahead Erykah Badu (who revives the witty tone she applied to Jazzamatazz’s “Plenty” a decade before) until Glasper’s flashy keys enters on the bridge and never lets go of “Afro Blue.” Coming off of the thumping conclusion of “Afro Blue,” the sequencing of a spaced-out version of “Cherish the Day (feat. Lalah Hathaway)” should have jarred but instead it eases us into its orbit, bar by bar, filling the space with fresh sounds until only the drum and melody line of the original Sade classic are recognizable. With its inspired brass work¸ Eastern flavors, and Lalah’s lush tones, “Cherish…” is easily one of the highlights on an album of astoundingly disciplined evenness.
A positively shimmering Glasper takes the opening minute of “Always Shine” (feat. Lupe Fiasco and Bilal) to remind us why he’s the pianist to watch, before the oversized talents of Fiasco and Bilal (and even drummer Chris Dave) capably overshadow Glasper’s supporting key work. With the inspirational neo-soul of “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.),” Ledisi’s pristine alto sublimely performs a song readymade for both her and urban adult contemporary radio; even dialing down from her full power, Ledisi proves the track’s star. Equally embodying the “experimentation meditation” tone is the highly viral buzzcut, “Move Love” (feat. King), boasts this generation’s answer to the Perri sisters; it and the trippy “Consequences of Jealousy” (feat. Meshell Ndegeocello) breaks trend by better spotlighting the band’s adroit instrumentations.
On “Why Do We Try,” a supernatural Stokely Williams of Mint Condition proves he’s the instrument on one of the few tracks that picks up the pace and ends up pushing the musicians much harder to meet the composition’s demands, ultimately competing with Williams for listener attention and often winning with evident solos, bold percussion work, and an avant garde arrangement worthy of resounding cheers. Frequent Glasper collaborator, Bilal, delivers a sensitive reading of David Bowie’s “Letter to Hermoine,” bringing a minimalist approach to a trustworthy story and melody, and one of the singer’s best performances. Like Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington before him, Glasper knows how to extract excellence from his performers, encouraging their unique personalities while restraining some of their trademark excesses.
It’s only on Glasper’s seven minute and twenty-three second deconstruction of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that the full breadth and depth of what the Robert Glasper Experiment can accomplish unencumbered is breathlessly illustrated. The marriage of Casey Benjamin’s pitch perfect vocoder and the band operating without limits is as exciting as any latter-day Coltrane composition. In its daring the cut stands shoulders above all that came before it and makes one long for more instrumental material from Glasper and the boys throughout Black Radio. Still, even on conservative fare like Musiq and Chrisette Michelle’s “Ah Yes,” elements of the band’s signature approach shine on Black Radio: deceptively intricate harmonic compositions and arrangements far more challengingly realized than the project’s easy flow and hypnotizing surfaces suggests, providing listeners’ a true “experience.” Here’s hoping for a sequel without commercial considerations or compromises -- for a “Black Radio” as oceanic and elastic as the limitless talents only heretofore hinted at by these brilliant musicians, leaving fans begging for that encore.
on April 13, 2012
This CD is REAL MUSIC. This is a great R&B,Jazz,Rock and Neo Soul ensemble piece. Many of my favorite current underground divas take part on this one. Lalah Hathaway's take of Sade's "Cherish The Day" is fierce (for lack of a better word). I have played it repeatedly on my commute to work. The every changing and crazy Erykah Badu delivers an awesome "Afro Blues". She does slow grooves best. Stay there crazy Badu and just maybe you'll become what you think you are. (TRUTH) I am having fun with this one y'all. For real, I do truly enjoy this mesh of music. MUSIC MUSIC finally MUSIC! It is really music in 2012! 'bout &*^%#! TIME! This year has been pitiful. The US releases are WEAK and very BAD. "Nicky Menage-A-Trois" is BS! I won't go on. GD! Today's no-talent required,just be cute (and slutty) on camera music scene is awful! Shame on the major labels (so few US owned anymore). Nearly all I have seen and heard of late is BS!