Glasper is that rare example of a young jazz artist well schooled in the tradition, but still willing to explore the popular music of his contemporariesa versatile talent who has already been heard with artists from Charles Tolliver and Carmen Lundy to Marcus Strickland and Bilal. His debut recording with bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Damion Reid fittingly opens with "Maiden Voyage." The track respectfully recognizes the classic music of Herbie Hancock, who is one of several discernible influences on the leader, but also serves as a forum for modernization in an atmospheric arrangement that features the ethereal voice of hip-hop soul crooner Bilal.
The pianist's lighthearted melody "Tipsy" reveals an affection for the music of Kenny Kirkland but more importantly exhibits an excellent compositional gift and an extraordinary stylistic range as he moves from articulate straight-ahead swinging to fluid parallel octave playing to a very personal sort of spacey staccato stride. He segues seamlessly into a rendition of "Alone Together" that begins with a confident reading of the melody and then proceeds to dissect it into fragments yielding material for experimentation.
The title track is another notable original on which the pianist/composer utilizes the voicing of Mike Moreno's guitar and John Ellis' tenor saxophone to create a quiet intensity. Glasper wrote the words and music to "Don't Close Your Eyes," a plaintive plea featuring Bilal's raspy falsetto that unveils a real talent for popular songwriting. Ironically, perhaps the best example of the high level of his creativity comes not from one of his fine originals, but on his arrangement of the Irving Berlin evergreen "Blue Skies," where he makes the old standard completely his own.
Even the 2:15 hip-hop "Interlude" that follows demonstrates a remarkable melodic gift. His "In Passing" is a surprisingly upbeat lament that reveals a virtuoso approach indebted to Keith Jarrett while expressing an optimistic outlook that is an unmistakable aspect of his own music. The concluding "L.N.K. Blues" is a blowing session augmenting the trio with the battling tenor saxophones of Ellis and Marcus Strickland, on which the pianist shows off his hard bop chops, illustrating emphatically he can do it all.
Track Listing: Maiden Voyage; Lil Tipsy; Alone Together; Mood; Don't Close Your Eyes; Blue Skies; Interlude; In Passing; L.N.K Blues.
Personnel: Robert Glasper- piano, Bob Hurst- bass, Damion Reid- drums, Mike Moreno- guitar (track 4), John Ellis- tenor saxophone (tracks 4, 9), Marcus Strickland- tenor saxophone (track 9)
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.