New York is the headquarters of the ever-growing music movement that is the deconstructing of genre via progressive jazz fusion, courtesy of artists like Jose James, ERIMAJ and Christian Scott. In the wake of their Grammy win for Best R&B Album for Black Radio, Robert Glasper and his Experiment band (RGX) made their triumphant return to the city. The evening was part of Hennessey Home Session, an intimate gathering that found the band hobnobbing with their family, friends, fans, colleagues and media members, all of whom are a part of the forward-thinking community that’s reshaping music and culture for the better.
As flexible and dynamic as Glasper and Co. are live when it comes to virtuoso instrumentation, what made this event so special was their ability able to not only to be themselves but match the atmosphere of the occasion. Being that it was at a lower Manhattan loft with beds, padded benches occupied by grown and sexy professionals of various colors with endless swagger and diverse musical palettes, RGX played up to that vibe with a 45 minute set of covers (Black Radio single “Ah Yeah” and an untitled except from its forthcoming sequel were the only two originals). They managed to compress their brain-melting abilities and emotionally heavy execution into an ultra-tight showcase that was the epitome of chill and sexiness.
They started by talking to the ladies with runs through Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly” and Sade’s “Cherish the Day (a standout track on Black Radio).” Front man Casey Benjamin’s ability to channel vulnerability through his vocoder has continued to be one of the band’s biggest assets. Soon, the funk quiotent went up when the quartet banged out Jay-Z and Kanye West’s hip-hop hallmark “No Church in the Wild.” The intertwining of Derrick Hodge’s bass and Mark Colenburg’s drums enhanced the original’s magnetic darkness while also inspiring some uncontrollably relaxed head-nodding and hand waving. When they transitioned into Daft Punk’s new instant classic “Get Lucky,” highlighted by Glasper’s expert two-handed Motif 8/Fender Rhodes translation of Nile Rodgers’ infectious syncopated guitar riff, prompted the slightly buzzed multitude to put their drinks down and cut it up with beautiful strangers.
Of course, no RGX show would be complete without a nod to the late, great J Dilla. When Glasper and Hodge played the opening chords of Common’s “The Light” and Slum Village’s “Fall-N-Love” – an abbreviated take on their “Dillalude 2” – the body moving only increased. Later on, following their customary apocalyptic funk rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” they tied a lovely bow on the set with “Find a Way,” A Tribe Called Quest’s Dilla-produced swan song. A fitting way to signal the end of the night as well as the celebration of what has come and what’s to follow. With Black Radio Vol. 2 dropping in September, Hodge’s Live Today LP coming in August and a Benjamin solo project in the works, Robert Glasper Experiment refuses to slow down.
Butterfly (Herbie Hancock)
No Church in the Wild (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Frank Ocean)
Cherish The Day (Sade)
Get Lucky (Daft Punk)
Untitled Song (From Forthcoming Black Radio Vol. 2)
Think Twice (Donald Byrd)
The Light/Fall-N-Love (Common/Slum Village)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Find A Way (A Tribe Called Quest)
Words by Matthew Allen (@headphoneadditct)