Robert Glasper

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

This year’s festival ends with a slap to the face. Not an angry slap, a “wake up, you were asleep” tap. Blue Note Records pianist Robert Glasper lifts a U.S. tour leg up the West Coast in Seattle before jumping off to Zurich and points beyond. Fresh on the heels of the Black Radio remix, Glasper brings a quartet of East Coast bad boys with their dials tuned to gospel, hip hop, rap, jazz, rhythm and blues and rock. Do they cross genres? Well, Kanye West and yasiin bey crashed their recent New York club date.

Glasper was born in Houston 34 years ago. He attended the city’s High School for Performing Arts and then The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan. He hooked up with singer Bilal Oliver and mixed with Mos Def, Q-Tip, Kanye, J Dilla, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z and Talib Kweli. His early recordings cover tunes by Herbie Hancock and Duke Ellington.

St. Louis drummer Mark Colenburg attended Mannes School of Music in Manhattan on scholarship where he studied with Lenny White, Joe Chambers, Michael Carvin, Carl Allen and Andrew Cyrille. He has performed on The Tonight Show, The Chris Rock Show, Late Night with David Letterman and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Casey Benjamin hails from South Jamaica, Queens. He performs on saxophone and vocoder – the voice synthesizer used in WWII for encrypted communication. Benjamin went to school at LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and Performing Arts followed by The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.

Philadelphia native Derrick Hodge began on guitar at age 7, switched to electric bass, and finally to upright contrabass before attending Temple University where he studied jazz composition and performance. At Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Academy he studied with Christian McBride. Under the mentorship of composer Terence Blanchard, Hodge developed into a performer and composer for film soundtracks with several credits to his name. He composed, performed and produced for two Grammy winning recordings – one for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and another for Best Rap Album.

The band plays original songs with creative angles on popular repertoire – Mongo Santamaria, Sade, David Bowie and Nirvana. “We all have musical ADD,” Glasper says, “and we love it.” It’s chill with “more of an urban, hip-hop, soul kind of vibe, but the spine of it all is still a jazz spine.”

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