Robert Glasper: Canvas (2005)
This is primarily a trio date with up-and-coming bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid. (The underrated and extremely talented saxophonist Mark Turner makes a guest appearance on two pieces.) All of the compositions were written by Glasper, with the exception of Herbie Hancock's "Riot. In terms of lyricism, Glasper is reminiscent of elder greats like Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Randy Weston, with a dynamic and free technique. Beginning with "Rise and Shine, he also shows impressive ambidexterity balanced with speed and control.
Glasper creates a modern backdrop from many influences. The title piece draws from the blues and spiritual sources, whereas "Chant has African and Middle Eastern touches, joined by the vocal harmonies of guest vocalist Bilal. All of the music has a radiant sense of melody, whether it is the effervescent swing of "Jelly's Da Beener or the imaginative snippet "Centerlude, which sports some nice drumming by Reid, who also sparkles throughout the recording.
As a composer, the pianist has the ability to seamlessly change from one pattern to the next, as on "Enoch's Meditation, which contains shifting tempos and codas. These subtle transitions keep things interesting and refreshing. The recording ends with the crown jewel "I Remember," which starts with a sample of an old recording of Glasper's mother singing a raucous blues song, then quietly evolves into a gorgeous vamp filled with harmonious voices and piano improvisation.
Canvas is a very impressive, multifaceted portrait of a promising new voice in jazz piano.
Track Listing: Rise And Shine; Canvas; Portrait Of An Angel; Enoch's Meditation; Centerlude; Jelly's Da Beener; Chant; Riot; North Portland; I Remember
Personnel: Robert Glasper: piano, Fender Rhodes, kalimba; Vicente Archer: bass; Damion Reid: drums. Mark Turner: tenor saxophone (2,8); Bilal: vocals (7,10).
Record Label: Blue Note Records
Style: Modern Jazz