The Robert Glasper Experiment pushes the listener beyond any one genre, into a rhythmic universe where soulful music is just that—good for the soul, in need of no label. The band’s 2012 album Black Radio guest stars some of the most recognizable and accomplished names in urban contemporary music: Lupe Fiasco, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Erykah Badu and Musiq Soulchild. Each track is distinct to each artist, but Glasper’s defining sound and silky-smooth instrumentation isn’t lost in the mix; the sound is enhanced and brought forth by the spoken word of the instrumentals' inhabitants. Rock has also been included in the celebration. Reinterpretations of David Bowie’s “Letter to Hermione” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” appeal to more than just the jazz lovers; there’s a little something for everyone. The album, of course, still gives me hope for the future of jazz.
Robert Glasper proves the genre is still relevant; it’s just wandering and in search of a new audience. In a March 2012 LA Times article, Glasper reveals: “The jazz community kind of kills the alive to praise the dead. You look in any jazz magazine, 90% of it is old people, reissues or people who are gone already. The other 10% are new people, when it should be the opposite way. [In] jazz we’re so stuck on the old days, then we get mad when there’s no new audience. Well, why do you think there’s no new audience? You’re still playing [stuff] from 1965, that’s why. If Miles was here, trust me, Miles would’ve already recorded with Usher and Rihanna.” Black Radio may not be a big bang with everybody, but it’s still taking jazz where it needs to go: somewhere reinvigorating and unchartered. That feat in itself is admirable. The Robert Glasper Experiment will be at the Tralf Music Hall tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30.