Who: Robert Glasper Trio

Where : Jazz Alley

When: Tuesday, December 2

Robert Glasper Trio Photo by Sean Cunningham,

If you didn't know


Last Night: Robert Glasper Trio @ Jazz Alley



Who: Robert Glasper Trio

Where: Jazz Alley

When: Tuesday, December 2

Robert Glasper Trio Photo by Sean Cunningham,

If you didn't know Robert Glasper was playing last night at Jazz Alley, you're forgiven. The show was only confirmed last Wednesday and Glasper admitted he didn't know about it until four days ago. But the good news is, if you're reading this and you want to see the group, they'll be performing tonight as well. And trust me, after last night's show, whatever last-minute arrangements you have to make to get there will be worth it. I repeat: He's playing again tonight, Wednesday, at Jazz Alley! Go see the show!

Taking the stage in his baggy t-shirt and jeans, Glasper looked every bit the jazz messenger the press makes him out to be. After last year's In My Element, Glasper's reputation was solidified: He would be the guy to release jazz from its moldering coffin, pump it full of life again, and deliver it to the hip-hop generation. Aside from his casual attire and cool demeanor, however, I detected few traces of hip-hop last night. Instead, I just heard an incredible set of jazz by a trio of obscenely talented and soulful musicians. 

Glasper opened with a new number, which he later told the

small crowd was called "No Worries"--quite the Seattle-friendly song title, if

you ask me. Throughout the fiery, bouncy piece, Glasper's playing echoed the

spritely bop of Monk and dazzle of Oscar Peterson. But there were moments he

caressed and warmed the notes with the same delicate soulfulness Marvin Gaye

used when singing. Elsewhere, there were lovely classical flourishes and

lyrical turns reminiscent of Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil.

When listening to his trio work in the past, I

always carried a mental image of the songs: Three separate rubber bands (piano,

bass, drums) glued together in the middle, each player tugging the song in

their own unique direction. But on "No Worries", the trio sounded like a

cohesive whole dialed into each other's musical instincts (I can't help but

think it might have to do with each member coming out of the same high school

in Houston, Texas, as Glasper noted early in the show). Drummer Chris Dave was

probably the most "hip-hop" player of the bunch, but mostly because of the

bounce his rhythms lent the music.

He sat stiff-shouldered, face framed by long

curtains of dreadlocks, and made his kit sizzle like hot pavement. His fills

were like city traffic: frenzied, jerky, full of abrupt stops and forward leaps,

but always rooted in a smooth groove which he'd return to for breathers. And

while I know the bassist was exceptional in his own right, I have to admit I

was too busy watching the interplay between Glasper and Dave. When he wasn't

lost in a solo with his eyes shut, Glasper gazed over his Steinway at Dave with

that "Now, watch this!" look, that non-verbal communication shared by musicians

of their ilk. Luckily I took my Adderall and could keep up with the two of


While much of the buzz and hype over Glasper has been for the

way he's injected hip-hop into jazz, last night's show was proof that the dude

has some big ears. In addition to those traces of Monk, Peterson, and Marvin

Gaye, I heard Alicia Keys, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Keith Jarrett, Britpop,

Hancock, Mingus, Texas soul, Black Star, Tribe Called Quest, Roberta Flack,

Vince Guaraldi, and ?uestlove, to nme but a few. He's that rare mix of music

fan and musician, able to absorb all that he hears and make it his own. The

hip-hop element might be good for interviews and publicity bios, but Glasper is

doing something bigger than mere genre mash-up: He's bringing a daredevil

quality and sense of urgency to jazz. His energy and passion for the music is something we could all use a little more of, whether you're a jazz fan or not.

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