The pianist builds R&B with old-school values: singers who don’t need software, live improvising, hand-built beats. They’re jazz aesthetics, essentially — readily evident when members of his Grammy-winning Experiment band jam with singer Marsha Ambrosius.
The third song in this Tiny Desk Concert, explains the jocose pianist Robert Glasper, first appeared on one of his trio’s albums of acoustic, instrumental jazz. It was called “F.T.B.” then, though it later acquired words and a singer and was retitled “Gonna Be Alright” on the record which won the 2013 Grammy for Best R&B Album. That in itself provides a sense of the worlds to which Glasper has access; depending on your point of view, he either freely traverses or explodes those boundaries.
Glasper has released two albums of what you might call neo-soul, or maybe organic R&B, featuring a core band (The Robert Glasper Experiment) and guest stars like Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco and Norah Jones. Black Radio and last year’s sequel, Black Radio 2, aren’t heard much on “urban” radio, but the point is that they ought to be. Glasper builds his songs with old-school values: singers and MCs who don’t need software to carry a melody, improvising within a band, hand-building beats and vamps with live instruments.
That’s what you see at the Tiny Desk. “Trust” features Marsha Ambrosius, formerly of the duo Floetry, and it’s a good example of the Black Radio concept in raw, unpasteurized form. The middle tune is an ad hoc improvisation, and a good example of how Glasper and his Experiment have so dialed in their communication that they can plant seeds of noise and harvest blooms of music. By the time “F.T.B” (a.k.a. “Gonna Be Alright”) rolls around, the mood is familiar and at ease. It’s the sound of a band whose members speak many musical languages, but decide to converse in one that feels like its native tongue.
By Patrick Jarenwattananon
Originally published on NPR.org</em>