Robert Glasper, Bilal Early Warnings (Music) Recommended

When: Sat., March 10, 9 p.m. 2012

Robert Glasper has earned a reputation as one of jazz's most skilled, versatile, and progressive pianists, but he grew up immersed in soul and hip-hop. Over the past decade, as he's climbed the jazz ladder and broken into the New York scene, he's never let go of the music he loved in high school in Houston—he's played with some of today's best rappers and soul singers, among them Q-Tip, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Maxwell. His records for Blue Note have all worked some hip-hop grooves into the swing, and he split 2009's Double-Booked (Blue Note) between his jazz trio and his R&B-oriented Experiment. His new album, Black Radio, is straight-up, highly sophisticated R&B from top to bottom, with vocalists on every track—among them Ndegeocello, Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco, Ledisi, and Shafiq Husayn. Badu sings on a version of the Mongo Santamaria standard "Afro Blue," and the record also includes covers of David Bowie, Nirvana, and Sade, but most of the songs were written collaboratively by the vocalists, Glasper, and his killer band—bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Chris Dave, and reedist and vocoder-assisted singer Casey Benjamin, who are just as fluent as the pianist in the many varieties of black American music. There's not a whole of jazz in the mix: though Glasper adds improvised commentary and ornamentation to most of the tracks, there are only a few solos, and the grooves are straight out of the J Dilla handbook, right down to Dave's meticulous drumming, which imitates looped samples a la ?uestlove of the Roots. But beneath its R&B skin, the music has a jazz heart—listen carefully and you can hear the high-level engagement and subtle interplay among the players that comes from a jazz-band mentality. Onstage I expect they'll stretch out. For this show they'll be joined on some songs by Bilal, who also opens. —Peter Margasak For more on Glasper, see Artist on Artist.

Price: $30

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