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Album Review: Covered: The Robert Glasper Trio Recorded Live at Capitol Studios by Robert Glasper
Great, Based on 6 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Before last year, I had never heard of Robert Glasper. His instrumental cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady”, however, appeared on my radar and made me sit up and take notice. Here was a pianist possessed with a rare sensitivity and ability. Even though it was another artist’s song, Glasper was able to infuse those 7 minutes with his own personality while staying true to the original feel, transporting it to a different place but not losing the song’s core beauty.
A star for his R&B and hip-hop work, Robert Glasper here applies his elegant jazz skills with an all-acoustic trio to an inviting tracklist that was mostly written to be sung. That’s Glasper’s broad-appeal secret – on Covered, seductive anthems by Radiohead, Musiq Soulchild or John Legend keep glimmering through eloquent improv from the pianist and his long-time jazz trio of bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid. Breezily greeting his studio audience with a “Whassup, y’all?”, he opens with fast, pithy variations on his Black Radio: Volume 2 piece I Don’t Even Care that always reflect the tune’s shape, the 13-minute In Case You Forgot mixes free-jazz scrambles and hit-tune quotes like Time After Time, while the evergreen Stella by Starlight has an unexpectedly Bill Evans-like sumptuousness.
Four months after winning his second Grammy Award in the R&B category for Black Radio 2, pianist Robert Glasper re-assembles the acoustic jazz trio that played on his first two Blue Note recordings. Bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid assist the pianist in a live audience recording from Capitol's famed Studio A. Covered is far from a return to an acoustic piano trio for Glasper.
If you listen to early recordings by Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, or McCoy Tyner, you will hear some superb but relatively conventional jazz pianism. Playing as sidemen with older talents, they were more likely to stick to the script of the moment. But within less than a decade, each would become idiosyncratically themselves, developing an individual vocabulary they had nurtured over some time and moving its quirks to the center of their art.
For years, Robert Glasper has been hip-hop's go-to jazzman. Along with saxophonists Kamasi Washington and Terrace Martin, and bassist Thundercat, Glasper was featured prominently on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, which gives the pianist greater name recognition with hip-hop fans. On songs with rapper Black Milk and multi-instrumentalist Taylor McFerrin, Glasper played the background, yet you could easily distinguish him from the other sonic elements.
When keyboardist Robert Glasper released the full-length debut from his project the Experiment in 2012, you could hear the jazz marketplace shifting. Freely drawing from hip-hop and R&B, "Black Radio" — along with its sequel "Black Radio 2" — brought Glasper out of jazz clubs and into the pop conversation, earning a wider audience, two Grammy awards and the parentage of an entire subgenre of J Dilla-referencing jazz recordings that easily could be called "post-Glasper. " He's also part of the small coterie of jazz artists appearing on Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly.