When: Fri., Sept. 4, 7 & 9:30 p.m. 2015
Robert Glasper’s new album, Covered (Blue Note), is being billed as a return to his acoustic jazz roots, and indeed the pianist has reunited with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid, both of whom played on his first two albums for Blue Note. But after achieving success with a sophisticated strain of R&B heavily informed by his jazz sensibilities, Glasper likely doesn’t want to alienate his new followers—so what we get here is more an unplugged instrumental record reminiscent of what he’s developed with his more recent Black Radio project. Covered includes versions of songs by Joni Mitchell (“Barangrill”), Radiohead (“Reckoner”), and John Legend (“Good Morning”), a few new originals, and a single standard (“Stella by Starlight”), which is performed with a glossy patina that avoids challenging the listener. Reid plays with impressive energy, splitting up patterns like a mathematician, but the pianist plays it rather safe—sometimes it feels like he’s so used to performing behind a singer or rapper that he doesn’t bother embellishing melodies much. Glasper also covers Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” on which the pianist’s son recites a list of unarmed black victims of police killings. It’s an odd move considering labelmate Ambrose Akinmusire did much the same thing on last year’s “Rollcall for Those Absent”. Covered isn’t a bad record, but it lacks the depth and drive of Glasper’s earliest work—and suggests that wanting to have it both ways can leave you with less direction than you need to get anywhere. He performs with both Archer and Reid.
Price: $20-$60, late show is sold out