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Texan born Robert Glasper’s first strong musical influence
was his mother ‘Yvete Glasper.
Ms Glasper played piano and sang gospel music in the family’s
church. She also led a band that worked the city’s jazz and
blues club circuit. By the age of twelve Robert was playing piano
in the same church.
By the time Glasper had reached adolescence, he knew his destiny
was to be a jazz musician.
He attended Houston’s High School for the Performing Arts.
After graduating he continued his studies at New School University
in Manhattan. He soon hooked up with future band member Damien Reid
and old school mate Bilal.
Glasper progressed swiftly to earn his place gigging alongside
Russell Malone, Christine McBride and Kenny Garret. Such early exposure
led to further introductions. Jazz greats such as Carmen Lundy,
Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton and Roy Hargrove were all keen
to accept Glasper into their world
Glasper’s Sophmore album “Mood” was released
on indie label Fresh Sound New Talent in 2003. He joined the Blue
Note label two years later.
Canvas (released October 17 2005)
I procrastinated for quite some time before deciding to review
Robert Glasper’s “Canvas”.
After many decades
of music buying, I still get a tingle of excitement whenever I physically
grasp a new album. Probably similar to many women’s passion
for designer shoes. Of course I have never looked that great in
high heels, so I’ll stick to purchasing great music for as
long as I can afford to!
The emergence of Glasper’s Canvas takes me back to the early
eighties - bear with me…. In the early eighties a young little
known trio named ‘Pieces Of A Dream’ burst onto the
scene. Jazz lovers and music journalists were shocked when they
discovered the relatively fresh faces of this trio on their first
album cover. Questions were asked regarding how a group so young
could ‘compose’ and create such a mature, enduring sound.
Times have moved on and many young talented musicians have emerged,
who in turn have produced jazz gems. These gems have withstood the
test of time. Glasper and “Canvas” can be added to this
list of ‘young talented musicians who have produced jazz gems’.
This album is, in many ways a celebration of Glasper’s intuitive
approach as a composer. Glasper himself pens all compositions apart
from Herbie Hancock’s “Riot”.
“I want to be able to continue expressing myself musically!”
Glasper calmly revealed during our informal chat recently. He spoke
briefly about his school years and his shared dreams and friendship
with the continually rising neo-soul star Bilal. Glasper’s
back straightened and his eyes lit up with love and respect when
discussing his late mother, who features on the hauntingly beautiful
“Remember”. This composition, which Glasper fittingly
dedicates to his mother, also features Bilal, who adds a melodic
moan and rhythmic groove on another Glasper composition, “chant”.
Canvas carries subtle R&B / hip-hop influences throughout.
So subtle are these influences within many of Glasper’s main
piano led compositions that they will possibly be missed by the
staunch R&B / hip-hop lover. However - give it a few years I
am confident many hip hop ‘hit-makers’ will be revisiting
this album to loop a few beats and revel in it’s fresh creative
bounce. Especially from the intriguingly ghostly “Centelude”.
Glasper’s soulful influence is less subtle, possibly helped
along by fellow school pal Billal. Glasper allows the listener to
almost ‘grow into each composition’. I felt I was given
time and space to explore. Each time I revisited this album, it
sounded different. I have listened many times now and feel I still
have not fully grasped the whole spectrum of emotions Glasper has
on offer. I have no doubt regarding my favourite composition. “Chant”,
which sticks in my head and heart - just like my first ‘real
The only negative issue regarding this album is not actually related
to the musician and his music, but more towards the format it is
recorded on. C D technology has definitely moved on from it’s
early cold primal beginnings, but my ears and soul still crave for
the added depth and detail which I know can be found within the
dark grooves of a well-pressed ‘analogue’, vinyl recording.
Yep I’m a young man trained in the old school traditions.