Robert Glasper is more than just an extraordinary piano player. He's also a fantastic songwriter, producer, and band leader. He sat down on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic to perform a few songs and answer some questions about making his new album:
One of the things that makes the Robert Glasper Experiment so interesting is that they seamlessly combine jazz, R&B, soul, and hip-hop into one cohesive sound. That sound is on full display here, and it's even more experimental than the album, with Casey Benjamin handling most of the vocal duties using a vocoder and a keytar.
Things start with Glasper playing the acoustic grand piano & Fender Rhodes electric piano at the same time on "Big Girl Body." On the Black Radio 2 album version, guest singer Eric Robersonon gives the song a smooth R&B feeling; on this version, Casey Benjamin brings things to a trippy space with vocoder-ized vocals, synth keytar, and a saxophone solo drenched with heavy effects processing. It's also twice the length of the album version, clocking in at over 10 minutes. Video for just this song is available on YouTube.
The second song, "Let It Ride," is another cut off the new album. The inimitable Norah Jones sang the vocals on the album version. Here again, Casey Benjamin holds down vocals with a keytar driven vocoder for a much different and more experimental sound. On "Let It Ride," Glasper takes more of an extended solo that recalls the hard bop jazz style of '50s piano players like Thelonious Monk.
An interview follows "Let It Ride," beginning with Robert Glasper explaining the process of collaborating with guest artists and writing the material for Black Radio 2 with those artists as well as outside songwriters. Really interesting stories about how Bill Withers and Wayne Brady ended up on the record. Glasper also discusses how recording Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children of America" was inspired by the children of the Sandy Hook school shooting last year, and the collaboration process that led to Malcolm Jamal Warner contributing his own original poem to that track on the album.
The music resumes at 24:42 with Wayne Brady singing a spaced out funky version of Coldpay's "Yellow" which may sound like an unusual choice but it works really nicely here. Maybe Glasper's next album will be Vanilla Radio?
The final song of this KCRW broadcast is Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" with Benjamin once again doing tripped out electronic vocals. Toward the end of the song, drummer Mark Colenburg plays some crazy poly-rhythms while Glasper holds down piano and Benjamin holds long vocal notes to create a very beautiful and unusual sound.
Source: KCRW HD Showcase