Walking into the Gésu Theatre on Friday night I already had high expectations for the Robert Glasper show. The few pre-releases from his album ‘Black Radio’ had been on replay on my Ipod for weeks and I had only read rave reviews for this tour. As I searched for my seat I ran into at least a dozen elite members of the Montreal music industry. It’s quite clear that you’re going to be part of something extremely special when members of Nomadic Massive, Alaiz, Ruckus and Kalmunity all make it out.
As people shuffled into their seats there was much talk about the drums, bass and saxophones set up along side Glasper’s pianos, this was clear confirmation that the rumors were correct; Glasper came along with his notorious Trio: Casey Benjamin, Derrick Hodge and Mark Colenburg [Unfortunately Chris Dave didn’t make it out but Mark blew our minds anyway]. Just as the last person settled into the intimate Gésu hall, Robert Glasper and the fellas strolled on stage, rocking their day-to-day flair, unassumingly approaching their instrument of choice. The level of comfort and trust between the musicians was immediately apparent and Glasper joined the audience into that intimacy by joking around and responding to our every giggle, sigh, and applaud. Though everyone in the crowd was aware that they were about to experience superior quality music, it was clear that all the chichi jazz etiquette was out the window and that people were encouraged to express their enthusiasm during the performance.
The four-tet started off with a continuous hour mix of improvisation and pieces off of ‘Black Radio’, Glasper’s recent album. It was an absolute music-trance; our heart rates rose and fell with the rhythm of the drums, the saxophone solos took our breath away, the bass keep our minds in check and Glasper’s piano keys were shivers down the spine. The musicians played together proficiently and harmoniously yet were still highlighted in their uniqueness. The solos they shared with the audience not only exposed their amazing talent but also the grander and capability of each instrument. Casey Benjamin deserves a special mention for his innovative skill on four instruments: the alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, vocoder and keyboards. The first set would’ve already been more than your bucks worth, but Glasper and the band continued on for another hour with more material and a very special J Dilla tribute. Robert Glasper’s versatile musical background creates so much depth to his arrangements and makes his repertoire widely accessible for the masses. He covers J Dilla classics just as smoothly as he remixes Nirvana classics and all that with the essence of jazz in mind. Hip-Hop fans, R&B fans, Soul fans, Rock fans and Jazz fans, all became one for those two hours: True music fanatics.
With all the pretensions, typecasting and genre-barriers out the way, people were able to focus on the creation rather the creators, which in my mind is what the Robert Glasper Experiment is all about.
Be sure to pick up a copy of his new album ‘Black Radio’ to be part of this experiment.