October 17th, 2010
Robert Glasper performing Sunday night at the Triple door with Vicente Archer on bass and Mark Colenburg on drums. On the heels of his acclaimed Blue Note release, Double Booked, pianist Robert Glasper continues to infuse jazz with hip-hop sensibilities. Glasper played a set that confirms his place on the “short list of jazz pianists who have the wherewithal to drop a J Dilla reference into a Thelonious Monk cover,” (latimes.com) with skill and finesse.
More than seven years ago, when in his early 20s, Glasper gave notice while working with Russell Malone, Mark Whitfield, Marcus Strickland, and “neo-soul” star Bilal that he may ascend to jazz-piano fame. A lyrical, rhythmic player, he “excels in providing crisp, melodic statements [with] a nice, lighter touch, and in restraining his considerable chops in the service of space,” said All About Jazz. Raised in Houston, Texas, he has combined lyrical insights with complex, compelling rhythms to emerge as one of the freshest voices in jazz today. He possesses what the New York Times called “percussive intensity, fresh ideas, [and] improvisatory logic.”
The son of a gospel-singing mother, Glasper played piano in church before he reached his teens. At home, he heard gospel, Motown, and R&B, and he also got into jazz, rock, pop, and hip-hop. Moving to New York to study at the New School University, he began playing with Christian McBride, Russell Malone, and Kenny Garrett.
He acknowledges Keith Jarrett and Mulgrew Miller as his greatest influences, and also Herbie Hancock and many other modern greats. Many listeners and critics have noted a singing quality in his playing, and he has himself said: “I guess it is the singer inside of me; I’m singing through the piano.” Like Eric Lewis or Brad Mehldau, he is alert to the possibilities of bringing pop and rock melodies into piano jazz.