Robert Glasper Quartet
On his hit 2012 album Black Radio (Blue Note) pianist and Houston, Texas native Robert Glasper made explicit what was always bubbling away within his music: the heavy influence of hip-hop and contemporary R&B. He stripped down his tightly-coiled arrangements to function primarily as silky, bumping backing tracks for a number of high-profile singers and MCs: Erykah Badu, Bilal, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Lupe Fiasco, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Ledisi—whose album track “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)” earned a Grammy nomination for best R&B performance. The album helped expand his already sizable audience, pulling contemporary R&B fans toward his jazz foundation.
Over the last couple of years Glasper has focused on the music from Black Radio, but for his debut appearance at the Chicago Jazz Festival he’s working with his nimble, jazz-oriented quartet—the group that formed the core of his first few, primarily acoustic albums. In 2009 he released Double Booked, which featured his two different bands—one acoustic and one electric—but there was no missing that Glasper was blurring the lines between jazz and hip-hop in both units. Glasper is fluent in both sounds, which allows to nail fusions where most other have failed. Whether interpreting a Thelonious Monk standard like “Think of One” or ripping through a modern soul tune like Bilal’s indelible “All Matter,” Glasper doesn’t favor one approach over another, and doesn’t water down either tradition either. And even though he leads his jazz-oriented quartet tonight with bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Mark Colenburg, and saxophonist and vocalist Casey Benjamin, expect that the funk will still shine through clearly.