Covered: The Robert Glasper Trio Recorded Live at Capitol Studios
It’s a welcome return to the piano/trio format for Glasper. He’s proved – as guest player (for the likes of Kendrick Lamar) and on his Black Radio releases with The Robert Glasper Experiment that he can a) do anything and b) has been one of the crucial few crack jazz-heads to help legitimise hip-hop’s musical validity in an instrumental-prowess sense. But I also just love hearing the guy play piano. He does that well enough. And his trio setting (here it’s drummer Damion Reid and bassist Vicente Archer) doesn’t mean it’s just boring old jazz standards.
Glasper reworks some of the Black Radio material, here they’re all instrumentals, live in the studio – he’s covering himself on Covered as well as the music from collaborators and contemporaries (Bilal, Musiq Soulchild) and he’s still sticking a neck out – to peek around pop and borrow from indie. Though Radiohead are now the obvious go-to for jazzers t cover it seems. No matter, I like the soft, trio reading of Reckoner.
And when Glasper does take on an actual old standard, as with Stella By Starlight, we hear some nimble-fingered Monk-isms in the intro, and long before he was assembling his Black Radio influences Glasper was studying the jazz masters, particularly the pianists. The way Reid fans the brushes beneath, marking his own version of time, should appease anyone who misses hearing Chris Dave working with (and against and around) Glasper.
And it’s something to hear Harry Belafonte’s gruff voice on the penultimate Get Over. Wow. We talk Living Legends a little too often. But his spoken-word autobiographical snippet is something breathtaking, something to marvel over. There’s a stateliness to Glasper’s lines that glide beneath here.
Covered is a welcome return if you knew Glasper before Black Radio. But it might seem a little odd if you didn’t. Some sort of weird stepping down, as much as a step back. That’s not the case. Bear with him. He’s clever and thoughtful and wise across all formats. And his jazz playing is just as wonderful as his dynamic experiments inside funk and around hip-hop.