educator, writer, speaker, devoted family man, amateur philosopher, chess enthusiast, basketball junkie, connoisseur of fine hip hop, and purveyor of wit and wisdom
The album Black Radio by Robert Glasper Experiment has been getting a LOT of critical praise since its release a few months ago. I, being the procrastinator that I am, didn’t get my hands on it until a couple weeks ago.
Now you should understand that, for the past 3½ years of maintaining this blog, I have never written a review on an album release. In fact, even though I have very strong feelings about the music I listen to, I think I only wrote about music twice (right HERE and HERE). Perhaps my lack of writing about music has something to do with how particular people can be about their tastes. I often feel like my tastes are mine and very few people like the same things I like.
But with Robert Glasper’s Black Radio, I could care less what you think. I felt compelled to write about it. This album has been playing in my iPod since I downloaded it (legally y’all…I have to vote with my dollars.)
Robert Glasper is an amazing young jazz pianist. Years ago, I went online to search for new, up and coming jazz musicians, and he was one of the artists I discovered (my favorite young jazz artists include Robert Glasper, Stefon Harris, Gretchen Parlato, Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spalding, Hiromi, and Jason Moran). Robert Glasper had a few albums with his acoustic trio, but Black Radio is performed by Robert Glasper Experiment…the experiment being a foray into new jazz territory with the occasional sprinkling of electronic instruments.
So here’s what I think of the album Black Radio…
If I went out for a jog on a mildly sunny Sunday morning without a care in the world and I suddenly tripped on a broken piece of sidewalk, hitting my head on a large rock, then the insides that would spill from my broken skull would sound exactly like the music on this album. I listen to a lot of jazz and hip hop and (the ill-labeled) neo-soul music, and this album blends them all together perfectly. Rather than an album of uninspired lyrics sung (or rapped) over jazz-infused hip hop beats, this album is a true blend…the way two disparate ingredients come together to make a new something that is greater than simply the sum of their parts.
Some of the album’s highlights are the covers. There is a truly amazing cover of the jazz standard “Afro Blue” sung by Erykah Badu, and the song captures Badu’s personality perfectly. Bilal performs a really smooth, laid back, seemingly effortless cover of David Bowie’s “Letter to Hermione”. And while I agree with my brother Graymedium that no human being should ever be allowed to sing a cover of a Sade song, there is actually a pretty good cover of Sade’s “Cherish the Day” performed by Lalah Hathaway (who also appears on Esperanza Spalding’s latest release Radio Music Society). The album’s most unique covers appear at the end of the album with the Experiment band performing a great jazz cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” followed by a strange (but very good) cover of Coltrane’s “Love Supreme”.
The following guest artists comprise a who’s who of some of the people currently speaking to me in my head (and it’s no surprise that there are three Soulquarians on this list):
For those interested in learning more about the album, you really need to CLICK HERE for some notes about the album and how some of the tracks came to be.
Okay, that’s enough. I’m going to listen to the album again while I try to get some work done. If any of you have listened to the album, please comment here or contact me and tell me what you think.