Our good friend, HUMAN of HUMANphotography sent over some timeless photos of The Robert Glasper Experiment’s New York album release party held at the Highline Ballroom this past February. Take a look at history in the making, influential quotes from influential figures and a good old storyline of one of the best live concerts New York City has ever seen.
“What other jazz musician… would be able pull together such a youthful, multihued crowd, all of whom were on board to hear improvisation, silky urban-contemporary smoothness, and beats-to-the-rhyme?” –K. Leander Williams, Village Voice
“He’s modern jazz. He’s innovative. He’s the future… I feel as though Robert has that baton – the baton that 20 years ago Bill Laswell and Herbie Hancock had in their hands runnin’ with it and all that came after it. His jazz chops are so on the ball they can start doing real progressive things! They can take those J Dilla chords and apply them to 7/8 meter. Especially when The Experiment is performing… they’re really doing some aggressive rhythmic stuff together. They’re really applying a lot of polyrhythms that really haven’t been executed before in hip hop or jazz. They are really treading on some new ground.” – Questlove on Robert Glasper, Frank Fusco interview
@djspinna: Congrats to my brother @robertglasper for holding the #3 position on iTunes top albums right under Adele! DL it NOW! Let’s get it to #1! #BlackRadio
Robert Glasper listening to the yet-to-be released Move Love (DJ Spinna Remix)
“Robert Glasper proves why he’s a multitalent to be reckoned with on his brilliant fourth album, Black Radio. While his roots are definitely in jazz, the keyboardist/producer/
“Such was the case with Radio’s ‘Ah Yeah’ and ‘Afro Blue,’ for which Chrisette Michele hit the stage to coo and scat. The same went for R&B crooner Bilal, who stepped out to perform ‘Letter to Hermoine.’ Bey provided the hip-hop flavor, performing ‘Black Radio’ with his trademark red microphone and partnering with Bilal to run through ‘Reminisce’ in memory of J Dilla. Lalah Hathaway popped in to cover Sade’s ‘Cherish the Day.’ And when the stage wasn’t brightened with guest artists, band member Casey Benjamin (also of HEAVy) kept it well lit with his dexterous play on saxophones, keytar, and vocoder.” –Brad Wete, Complex
“Just as strikingly, ‘Black Radio’ is the rare album of its kind that doesn’t feel strained by compromise or plagued by problems of translation. It convincingly mirrors the texture and mood of contemporary black bohemia, largely because Mr. Glasper and his band — the bassist Derrick Hodge, the drummer Chris Dave and the saxophonist Casey Benjamin — are an integral part of that scene, with sideman credits that include not only the album’s guest roster but also the likes of Maxwell, whose most recent arena tour had the Experiment’s rhythm section at its core.”
–Nate Chinen, New York Times
“Colenburg was a wonder on the drum set whether playing funk, hip-hop or jazz beats. He and Hodge made a dynamic rhythm section.”
-Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press
“Not that Glasper won’t look in the archives, as he did with the early David Bowie obscurity Letter to Hermione, which is sung by Bilal on Black Radio. ‘Man, when I heard that song, it almost brought me to tears, because Bowie was so honest when he sang it. It just sounded so pure,’ Glasper said. ‘I really wanted to do that tune both because it’s obscure and it’s David Bowie. And Bilal, to me, is the modern David Bowie. It totally works out.’ “
-Bernard Perusse, The Gazette
The track “Ah Yeah” (a co-production with Glasper’s high school friend, the GRAMMY-winning producer Bryan-Michael Cox) is illustrative of the good fate that hung over the sessions. Glasper went to Atlanta to record with Musiq Soulchild at Cox’s studio. At a show the night before the session Glasper ran into singer Chrisette Michele and asked her to come by the studio as well the next day. The resulting duet is one of the album’s highlights.
“Real music is crash protected,” state the liner notes of Black Radio, a future landmark album by the Robert Glasper Experiment that boldly stakes out new musical territory and transcends any notion of genre, drawing from jazz, hip-hop, R&B and rock, but refusing to be pinned down by any one tag. Like an aircraft’s black box for which the album is titled, Black Radio holds the truth and is indestructible. Emcee yasiin bey (fka Mos Def) illuminates the metaphor on the title track:
Big bird falling down on a mountain pass
Only thing to survive the crash
You wanna fly free go far and fast
Built to last
We made this craft
From Black Radio
“Starting with the lead track off his first album—a now-famous arrangement that pitted the melody from Herbie Hancock’s ‘Maiden Voyage’ against the chords from Radiohead’s ‘Everything in Its Right Place’—pianist Robert Glasper has made it a point to approach non-jazz material from a jazz angle. But he takes the concept to a whole new level on Black Radio, a different-vocalist-on-ever
On “Gonna Be Alright,” the R&B singer Ledisi highlights Glasper’s bright melodicism by writing new lyrics for his instrumental “F.T.B.” from the In My Element album.
“You can’t pigeonhole what we’re going to do or how we’re going to do it,” Glasper declares. The Experiment wears its eclecticism on its sleeve throughout Black Radio, presenting new collaborative originals and surprising cover songs. They transform the Afro-Cuban standard “Afro Blue” with Badu, Sade’s “Cherish the Day” with Hathaway, David Bowie’s “Letter to Hermione” with Bilal, and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with Benjamin’s vocoder vocal.
Glasper and Lupe Fiasco (whose recent gig together at the Blue Note Club in New York became a freestyle jam session when Kanye West and yasiin bey crashed the stage) co-wrote “Always Shine” which features Fiasco’s lyrical flow as well as a searing chorus sung by Bilal.
Fresh off Late Night with David Letterman, the Robert Glasper Experiment performs “Always Shine” with special guests Lupe Fiasco and Bilal.
Reflecting back, Glasper is rightly proud of Black Radio, but also humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support and talent that it took to bring the album into being. “Everyone just said yes, period, we’ll do it. It was smoother than I ever thought it would be to get all these great, amazing artists to come together and do this project.”
With Black Radio, the Experiment band has fully arrived. Featuring Glasper on piano and Fender Rhodes, Casey Benjamin on vocoder and saxophone, Derrick Hodge on electric bass, and Chris Dave on drums, the band is plugged in and open source. Each of the band members is prodigiously talented and lives naturally in multiple musical worlds, distilling countless influences into a singular voice. “That’s what makes this band unique,” says Glasper. “We can go anywhere, literally anywhere, we want to go. We all have musical ADD and we love it.”
Compiled by HUMANphotography
Photos by HUMANphotography