Thursday, March 31, 2011

Robert Glasper: The Nu Jazz

Robert Glasper
I always tell my piano students to check out the masters: the historical greats such as Fats Waller, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Theolonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, and so many others. However, I think it is also important to check out the players of today. Jazz is a living music, and if we ignore those who are playing jazz now, aren't we,in a sense, discrediting ourselves?

In a recent lesson, I had one of my students listen to some Robert Glasper. Who is Robert Glasper?
Glasper is a young pianist from Houston, Texas. He went to New York to study at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and he has had a meteoric rise to success in the jazz world. He was signed to Blue Note in 2005, after having worked as a sideman with people like trumpeter Nicholas Payton and rapper Q-Tip. Glasper is a piano virtuoso: he has a ferocious right hand, which can blaze solo lines of impressive complexity, but also deliver soulful melodic statements. Glasper represents a different point of departure in his influences: I hear more Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, and also some modern Gospel influence. His rhythmic phrasing comes more from hip-hop than be-bop. (Although, I don't think hip-hop would have existed without be-bop, but that's another discussion.)

Glasper's most recent disc is called Double Booked , which refers to, in this case jokingly, the occurrence of a musician who is slated for two different concerts in two different locations in the same night. (Hey, it happens!)This premise is used here to feature two of Glasper's bands on one disc: The Robert Glasper Trio, and the Robert Glasper Experiment, respectively. The former is a perhaps more traditional jazz trio, and the latter is a more blatant vehicle for jazz hip-hop fusion. The Experiment features the great Casey Benjamin, who plays alto saxophone, but also does wonderful things with the vocoder (a vocoder is a device which essentially synthesizes the voice. It almost sounds like a singing robot. But trust me, it's hipper than that!)

Back to my lesson: my student and I had been talking about rhythm. I usually urge students to listen to  Wynton Kelly to learn how to swing. But jazz rhythm has changed a lot since the 1950's and 1960's. It has incorporated all of the trends in American popular music, including rock, soul, funk, and hip hop. Glasper does some beautiful behind-the-beat hip-hop phrasing on "Yes I'm Country(And That's OK)". I wanted my student to try to emulate Glasper's approach in order to have a wider perspective, and to make his rhythmic approach more organic.

I highly recommend you check out Robert Glasper if you want to hear a soulful, modern spin on jazz piano concepts.


  1. Cool- thanks for the heads-up on this guy.

  2. gold bracelet charmsArthritis AidsGeorge sorry one more (hope you don't mind) this is a question that came up while re-reading your suggestions. This area where u mentioned " I like Tristano's idea ..... It's like soloing in slow motion. Eventually, you want to be able to do that in time."

  3. sealey toolsNaples Florida houses for saleThx George for your inputs!! It's Chris K the anonymous, reason why it was extensive was because I wanted to give you a full picture of what I'm going through, so you have all the info to analyze just in case. Ok cool your advice will stick with me for long time I'll work on it real hard and hopefully in a year or two I'll report good results. Also hopefully I can take time off work and join your jazz camp when it's due next, take care you real cool man~ Also just fyi - not sure if I told you this but I knew about you because I had bought your Ultimatum CD, some tunes are soooo beautiful and I think lots of mixed meters, your trio album from criss cross is next on my list because I want to hear how you improvise on standards. BIG Thx again George!!!!!!! I should quit my day job and just come to your school and study...


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