Robert Glasper is unquestionably a brilliant musical talent. He’s a multi-Grammy Award-winning pianist, composer, and producer. He also is a founding Kennedy Center Hip-Hop Culture Council member and has performed at the Kennedy Center several times.
Glasper’s “Black Radio 10th Anniversary Celebration” performance delighted a sold-out audience at the Kennedy Center. To carry out a mission to “chill out” his audience, Glasper brought to the stage singers Bilal, Lalah Hathaway, and Meshell Ndegeocello; poet/spoken word artist Amir Sulaiman; dancer Kyle Abraham, and actor, comedian, singer Affion Crockett.
Crockett served as a funny “hype guy” for the evening in between each song or group of songs. Bilal showed his jazz roots which is how he began working with Glasper. The two met at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. Bilal delivered all the right jazz tones during the evening. Lalah Hathaway is a jewel with her raspy, sensuous voice. The arrangement for her rendition of Sade’s “Cherish the Day” was easygoing and sublime.
With a musical background that crosses several genres, Glasper set out to compile “Black Radio,” a collection of music that taps all his creative sensibilities. That includes jazz, contemporary jazz, urban adult contemporary, hip-hop, and R&B. As a result, Glasper attracts music artists who have been at the top of their game for a while. He is this generation’s Quincy Jones.
Getting all the artists on his wish list for his dream “Black Radio” recording session took work, and it was not coming together. So, he went on tour, and then he got a call from his manager. Everyone Glasper wanted was available the same day. His tour was immediately canceled, and he flew back to the U.S.
“Most of the songs from the first ‘Black Radio’ are covers. There wasn’t time to compose new music,” Glasper explained during his recent concert. “All but one song was recorded in one take.”
In addition to Glasper bringing to the stage his solo recording vocalists, his DJ Jahi Sundance was there to get the audience in the groove and to add special effects to some of the songs that Glasper performed.
He performed a two-part concert, with the second half featuring the 32-piece Black Radio Orchestra led by Derrick Hodge, which added a lushness to the evening. They also added intensity to a dance performed by Abraham, who dressed in bright red, and contorted his body in ways that were beyond being limber. What an amazing, unexpected addition to the program.
This recent appearance by Glasper was my second time seeing him at the Kennedy Center. This past April, he performed a duo-piano concert with his Houston, Tex. homeboy Jason Moran. Moran is the Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz. Just two guys, each playing a baby grand piano. That was all there was on the stage. The next time Glasper comes to the Kennedy Center, don’t hesitate to go. There is more than enough talent to keep everyone interested. Keep up with Glasper at his website, https://www.robertglasper.com.
Brenda C. Siler on Twitter and Instagram: @bcscomm