Trying Something Different

Something Different
Robert Glasper

When you think about the different genres within the music industry, they seem to divide musicians like nation’s borders divide the population of the world.  Genres are used more by music executives to categorize music for record sales purposes. I learned about genres early as I remember presenting a dance record I was promoting to a buyer. He listened a little more than ten seconds and simply called it R & B. Yes, the song had R & B elements, but I thought if you just had to categorize the record, you could just as easily call it dance music. You see it is very easy to find elements of various styles of music in a given song because; musicians make music. Most musicians create based on the music that has influenced them, many times without regard to genre.  Recently we were provided a great example of how musicians of various genres can easily work together and produce music appreciated by others within the music industry and music fans alike. I am speaking of the album entitled Black Radio, which won the Award for Best R & B Album at the 55th Grammy Awards. The artist is Robert Glasper, who will turn thirty-five years old April 5th.

Glasper is a singer-songwriter, record producer, composer and arranger who is categorized as a jazz musician.  The best way to describe Robert Glasper if you have not heard of him is that he is an extremely brilliant pianist. Just listening to him play is really a wonderful treat to the ears. Those who have worked with Glasper in the past view him as an effective young ambassador of music. If you noticed, I did not say he was an ambassador of jazz music alone. No, because Black Radio showed us something a little larger than jazz music. Please, all you jazz purists out there don’t think for a moment that I am disrespecting the place of jazz music in the history of modern R & B, Soul and hip hop music. And I don’t believe Robert Glasper is showing any disrespect either.  I believe he has simply highlighted the relationship between the musical genres.

First of all we start with the artists whom he chose to accompany him on Black Radio. Lalah Hathaway, Bilal, Stokley (from the group Mint Condition) and Ledisi all bring us a sound defined as jazz fusion.  Erykah Badu, Music Soulchild and Chrisette Michelle have a track record with R & B music. Lupe Fiasco and Yasin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) are unmistakably hip hop artists.  However, despite diversity they gathered with Robert Glasper to create a beautiful album of music and a great experience. I say the latter because Glasper mentioned in a recent interview how much he and artists enjoyed the interaction, and how much it contributed to the creative process.

Black Radio was not born by chance because Glasper has had a relationship with hip hop and R & B artists dating back to his high school days in Houston. Moreover he has toured and performed with hip hop and R & B performers throughout his career. This synthesis of hip hop and jazz is supposedly Glasper’s attempt to correct what he sees as a lack of new energy in the jazz genre. In the April 2012 issue of Down Beat, Glasper stated that “I’ve gotten bored with jazz to the point where I wouldn’t mind something bad happening. Slapping hurts, but at some point it’ll wake you up. I feel like jazz needs a big-ass slap.” Now we have Black Radio, which is Glasper just trying something different. We will wait to see if “something different” will be something that lasts. Whatever your musical tastes, please do yourself a favor and get a copy of Black Radio. You may be among the many who have embraced a different sound.

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