Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved reader experience across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

320

Robert Glasper: In My Element

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Pianist Robert Glasper's embrace of hip hop—which is being foregrounded by Blue Note, presumably as a device to widen his trio's appeal—is, truth be told, overstated going on misleading. For at its core, Glasper's music is everything that hip hop is not, or anyway not what it is perceived to be. In My Element—a wonderfully rounded development of the music presented by the same inventive trio on Canvas (Blue Note, 2005)—is subtle, allusive, rhythmically complex, and understated. And it's all acoustic; there are no samples, pre-programmed beats or spinning wheels of steel.



Glasper's embrace of hip hop is real enough, but it is impressionistic rather than literal. In his own piano playing—a sophisticated, contemporary expression of Bill Evans' legacy—there is nary a trace. The connection lies, most obviously, in the contribution of drummer Damon Reid. But it is indirect even here, not in the beats Reid plays so much as in the textures he produces, tough going on metallic and clearly out of rap and hip hop. Only occasionally—as on "F.T.B." and "J Dillalude"—does Reid get down on the one and work it. Mostly he plays extended, skittering, running and jumping phrases, employing hip hop's signature rolls and paradiddles, but across and around the beat, abstracting the rhythm rather than simply maintaining it.



Glasper's improvisations take a similarly elliptical route, melodically and rhythmically. He's strongest in his right hand, favoring rapid fire, treble register lines, introducing fragments of melody, turning them inside out, restless, recalibrating. The left hand generally comps and punctuates. Only on the gospel-derived "Y'Outta Praise Him" and "Tribute" does Glasper really get two-handed.



Glasper's tunes—all but two tracks here are originals—are impressionistic and fragmentary too. They don't so much lay down melodies as suggest them. Even the covers, of Sam Rivers' "Beatrice" and Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" (which morphs into Radiohead's "Everything In Its Right Place"), are essences-of rather than note-faithful expositions. The originals are also, it has to be said, a bit samey, and the interest lies in the trio's elaborations of them rather than in their intrinsic value. "One For 'Grew," written for pianist Mulgrew Miller, is an exception, a beautiful, well-chiseled melody, and the closest thing to straight-ahead, swinging jazz on the album.



Ultimately, the hip hop connection is more or less irrelevant. In My Element is fresh and adventurous, an invigorating twist on the piano trio tradition, and played by young masters from whom, it is to be hoped, we'll hear a lot more.


Track Listing: G & B; Of Dreams to Come; F.T.B.; Y

Personnel: Robert Glasper: piano; Vicente Archer: bass; Damion Reed: drums.

Title: In My Element | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Contra la indecision CD/LP/Track Review Contra la indecision
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Vessel in Orbit CD/LP/Track Review Vessel in Orbit
by Don Phipps
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Pulse/Quartet CD/LP/Track Review Pulse/Quartet
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: January 19, 2018
Read OR CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Avenida Graham" CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "The Wild" CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "Fly Or Die" CD/LP/Track Review Fly Or Die
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Speechless" CD/LP/Track Review Speechless
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Fountain Of Youth" CD/LP/Track Review Fountain Of Youth
by David A. Orthmann
Published: July 15, 2017
Read "New Affirmation" CD/LP/Track Review New Affirmation
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 6, 2017