Robert Glasper – Double-Booked
Robert Glasper returns with his third full album on the legendary Blue Note record label. Due for release on 25th August, Double-Booked is an incredible jazz album, but this time there’s a bit of a twist. The album seemingly comes as two records rolled into one; tracks one through to six are by The Robert Glasper Trio, whilst tracks seven to twelve are under the guise of The Robert Glasper Experiment. In Robert Glasper‘s own words, “most people, if they have different bands, they do separate albums, but I felt I’d be making more of a statement if I put it all on one joint.” The Trio deliver that trademark Glasper piano-jazz magic, but The Experiment seizes an opportunity for Robert Glasper to air some more left-field sounding material featuring appearances by artists such as Bilal and Mos Def.
The Robert Glasper Trio
02. No Worries
03. Yes I’m Country (And That’s Ok)
05. 59 South
06. Think of One
The Robert Glasper Experiment
10. For You
11. All Matter
12. Open Mind
The album kicks off with a voice-mail message Intro which explains the album’s title. Basically it sounds like Robert Glasper managed to book two gigs on the same night, one for the trio and one for the experiment! Then it’s straight into No Worries – a ridiculously beautiful instrumental piano jazz track. One thing that became immediately apparent, when listening to both parts of this album, was the tight percussive arrangements and rhythms. Now, don’t get me wrong, Robert’s all about the piano and he is one extremely talented pianist, but it just struck me how brilliant the rhythms were – it’s the epitome of what jazz means to me, both tight, yet loose at the same time. When I think of contemporary jazz pianists, I think of Esbjorn Svensson (RIP) and Neil Cowley, two immensely gifted musicians who have had added their own twists to the genre – but Robert Glasper is a real enigma, in a way. Robert Glasper navigates his musical ear between styles and genres like it doesn’t matter, and that’s just the point, it doesn’t matter!
Yes I’m Country (And That’s OK) is another exquisite example of the breadth of sound and style used by The Robert Glasper Trio. Energetic stanzas constructed with delicate components. Expressive melodies flowing into hypnotic hits and crashes – it’s organised chaos in the most blissful fashion. It gives the impression of swooping you up off your feet and taking you along for the musical ride – it’s impossible to ignore the passion in the music. Downtime emits with such verve that you might think the piano itself is singing to you, and I think that in a way it really is. Downtempo sections with a focus on double bass allow time to absorb more of the atmosphere, before riding back into the piano melody. 59 South takes the journey a step further with its combination of intricate piano and busy percussion, before an immaculate version of Thelonious Monk’s Think of One concludes The Robert Glasper Trio section. A wondrous five track selection of some of the finest contemporary jazz you’re likely to hear all year.
The Robert Glasper Experiment starts with the track 4eva. It’s a hard-kicking neo-jazz/soul piece with Mos Def on the mic. It acts as a brief introduction track before slipping into Butterfly (originally by Herbie Hancock) with its infectious steady rhythm and vocoder vocal section (don’t worry, I don’t mean like T-Pain, this is vocoder, not auto-tune!). There’s something quite deep about this track, both in substance and feeling. The rhodes keys, deep bassline and frenetic rhythms combine well with the vocal effects to create a smooth and intriguing listening experience.
Festival is the longest track on the album at just over 10 minutes long. Eerie piano gently enters with spaced out brass as the rhythm gradually builds and the overall pace gains momentum. This track is all about build ups and crashes, recoveries and dashes. But it’s definitely not messy, as the aforementioned description may suggest – no, this is very together. It’s raw, but deliberate, and as such is quite pure in a certain sense. I, for one, am very grateful Robert has taken his work in such a direction. It’s very expressive, but most importantly it sounds good and really seems to connect with the listener. Conversely, For You is the shortest track (minus intros) on the album at just over 2 minutes long. It sees a return of the vocoder style vocal, delivered in an understated manner and combined with a downtempo jazz beat and soft keys – echoes of neo-soul, with a jazz sensuality.
The penultimate track is All Matter, a piano driven song with simply divine vocals from Bilal – genuinely makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It’s typical Bilal, and I say that in the most complimentary way possible, because the guy is amazing. Bilal + Robert Glasper, it really does just make so much sense! The vocals and the music match each other with a distinct amount of mutual respect and vigour. The final track is Open Mind, a very spiritual tune with Bilal on vocals once more. It’s very deep and a perfect outro to such an album, crammed with sounds from multiple spectrums.
This album is incredible. It’s so obvious that music IS Robert Glasper – there’s so much of this individual in his music, although admittedly I think you’re going to need to hear this album to realise exactly what I mean. A gifted person indeed – I am so thankful for his vision and efforts. Robert Glasper transcends genre and rules, to an extent, and still produces something so dynamic and complete. There are essences of hip-hop, neo-soul and (obviously) jazz throughout, but there is at no point any ‘bleeding’ of styles, no noticeable moments of transition (apart from between the obvious and clearly marked two sections of the album). Gifted beyond his years, it’s clear to see why Blue Note have so much faith in him – this album should delight any jazz fan and I expect to see a huge reaction to it when it drops next week.