Archive | July 29, 2009

Album Review: Double-Booked by Robert Glasper

29 Jul

Double-Booked by Robert Glasper

Release Date: August 25, 2009, Blue Note

robert glasperThe title of pianist Robert Glasper’s new album is a play on words in a couple of ways. The first is a reference to the album splitting time between Glasper’s two bands: his trio and The Robert Glasper Experiment. The second reference to the title, whether it be true or not, is revealed in the opening seconds of the first track. Trumpeter Terrance Blanchard is heard leaving Glasper a voicemail, suggesting that there is a rumor going around that Glaspar booked his “Experiment” band to play at one club, while his trio was scheduled to play at Blanchard’s new club on the exact same night.

Admittedly, Glasper’s previous release In My Element, while demonstrating a wonderful talent, did not personally leave me waiting in great anticipation for this new release. Double-Booked, however, is ultimately enjoyable from the opening track to the final note.

With Double-Booked, Robert Glasper is destined to put himself on the top of the list of young, hip jazz pianists (alongside Eldar and Taylor Eigsti). What gets him to be a part of this list is not simply talent, but the ability to demonstrate a wonderful creativity in different settings. Double-Booked not only shows versatility, but the ability to have a well-rounded understanding of what sounds will be leading edge, in either a acoustic trio or a more intense, hip sounding edgy “Experiment”.

The first six tracks are from the Robert Glasper Trio. I will say that if you like the opening track, No Worries, then you will like the rest of the acoustic set. I don’t say that because they all sound the same, because they don’t. I say that because the set list was well thought out with seamless transitions. The Thelonious Monk tune, Think of One, is also a highlight of the acoustic set, closing it out. It has become popular as of late for musicians to make their own recording of this tune, but Glasper makes it his own without sounding like he is trying too hard to recreate it.

The second half of the album begins with a second voicemail left by ?uestlove, the drummer for The Roots (and no, that is not a misspelling, his professional name is spelled ?-u-e-s-t-l-o-v-e, sometimes spelled Questlove). The message suggest the reverse of Blanchard’s message, suggesting that he heard the trio was already booked, but that Glasper should bring The Experiment for a jam session with Mos Def and company.

This is a lead in to The Experiment’s half of the album, which takes an edgier look at things, mixing jazz with a hip-hop attitude. Rapper Mos Def is immediately heard rapping on the second half, almost as a suggestion to the listener that this kind of hip attitude is exactly what the listener would be getting into for the next six tracks.

Sax, vocoder, turntables, electric bass, and Rhodes all make themselves entirely audible during The Experiment’s portion of the album, which is just as entertaining, well produced and performed as the first half. Vocalist Bilal adds a nice touch to the final two tracks, All Matter and Open Mind.

Double-Booked should dwarf the success that In My Element had. For those who still fear the mixing of hip-hop sounds with jazz – give it a good listen. This is how it is done right. And if that combination still scares you, stick to the first half of the album. Double-Booked, in one way or another, takes care of every listener.

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