As the paintbrush of modern mainstream jazz takes broader strokes across the canvas of contemporary music, Robert Glasper folds elements from several areas into his art. And that's what makes his performances so interesting.
His first album, Mood (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2004), introduced the pianist as an eclectic artist who takes jazz and blues to heart. The 26-year-old Houston native has made numerous connections in contemporary music circles, and has worked in different modes.
Canvas, however, places him squarely in the middle of the mainstream. Here, the pianist kneads his original compositions like dough to shape them in the form of serious jazz that's intended to provoke reflection. His pensive and moody creations allow much room for spiritual interaction.
Herbie Hancock's "Riot" differs from the rest of the program. With this upbeat piece, Glasper and Mark Turner lift the album's mood considerably and swing with enthusiasm. Elsewhere, the pianist and his musical partners seem contented with Adult Contemporary moods that cast a long shadow.
Driving forcefully in several places but relaxing through most of this program, Glasper often takes it nice and easy. At times like this, he's easy on the ears and gentle on the mind. Don't look for a wakeup call among these smooth adventures. For the most part, Canvas provides landscape scenery befitting cool green pastures where the motion of the wind against wildflowers creates a modicum of excitement.
Personnel: Robert Glasper: piano, Fender Rhodes, kalimba; Vicente Archer: bass; Damion Reid: drums.
Mark Turner: tenor saxophone (2,8); Bilal: vocals (7,10).