Robert Glasper: Canvas (2005)
Many young jazz musicians are no strangers to pop music. More familiar with Radiohead's Kid A and Public Enemy than Jerome Kern or Cole Porter, they have become increasingly more adventurous in an attempt to make jazz a commodity for the 21st Century. Unlike glossy pop covers from the '80s, Robert Glasper uses subtlety to explore late-20th Century music.
This is no surprise. Having performed with Q-Tip, Bilal and Meshell Ndegeocello, Glasper finds comfort and room to breathe in his post-soul approach to jazz. Make no mistake about it, Canvas is as straight-ahead as they come these days. Glasper is the first new instrumentalist to sign to Blue Note in five years, and it is unlikely that he will stray from the label's roots.
"Chant best exemplifies the mission of this record. R&B singer Bilal and the Fender Rhodes make what would otherwise be a Middle Eastern raga into a loop that hip-hop producer Timbaland could use. Similarly, "Enoch's Meditation mixes soulful harmonies and a trance-like rhythm section. After an intense round of piano choruses which spotlight the trio's chops, a livelier groove emerges and reminds you that you're listening to a promising composer. Herbie Hancock's "Riot, the only cover on the disc, swings like any classic Blue Note recording and then moves past post bop when saxophonist Mark Turner chimes in and initiates a four-way musical conversation among seasoned musicians.
Glasper uses the favorite elements of his years on the New York scene and, just as the title implies, paints a strikingly vivid picture in his synthesis of past and present music. Diving head-first into mad-scientist electronics and pop covers is not the goal of Canvas, and that can be so refreshing.
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