Album Remarks & Appraisals:
All About Jazz - Troy Collins
Evoking the fruitful jazz and pop crossover efforts of the 1970s, pianist Robert Glasper's Experiment infuses improvisational sensibilities into an array of contemporary black music traditions, from R&B and neo-soul to funk and hip-hop. Glasper is no stranger to such collaborations; in addition to leading his own acoustic and electric ensembles, he is music director of Mos Def's touring band and sideman to rapper Q-Tip and R&B singer Maxwell.
Drawing from an impressive pool of pop music talent, Black Radio features an all-star cast, including household names like Ledisi, Me'shell Ndegeocello and Musiq Soulchild. The majority of the date consists of catchy originals that cater to the strengths of each guest vocalist, yielding a simmering quiet storm-vibe - occasionally punctuated by more distinctive fare. For example, the intriguing duo of Bilal and Lupe Fiasco bring an otherworldly ambience to "Always Shine," which alternates between Bilal's rapturous gospel choruses and Fiasco's metaphysical lyrical flow. Venturing further afield, the bracing title track is one of the album's most enthralling excursions, enlivened by Mos Def's hypnotic wordplay. ... read more...
All About Jazz - Mark F. Turner
Robert Glasper's love for the music of his upbringing is deep. The sounds of hip hop, R&B, and urban soul music are intrinsically linked to a brilliant young jazz pianist who has gigged with jazz icons, headlined his own bands, and released a number of noteworthy recordings, including 2007's In My Element (Bluenote) and 2009's Double Booked (EMI). His music has borne the fruits of this passion; he's as comfortable with "J Dilla" as he is with John Coltrane. Some have questioned whether Glasper is abandoning his jazz roots and selling out to popular music. Yet as if to quote "Damn the critics, full steam ahead..." Glasper continues to emphatically prove his point with the superb and fully realized Black Radio.
This project features one of the pianist's working bands, the Robert Glasper Experiment, augmented by a starred list of names who are well recognized in and outside of mainstream music: Erykah Badu, Bilal and Me'shell Ndegeocello, to name a few. The threads are jazz but the woven tapestry is comprised of fresh urban soul music that rocks, bounces, and chills, caring little about labels. "Lift Off" sets up the program, beckoning to the sounds of a late night DJ, followed by the crooning of Badu's sultry voice in "Afro Blue." ... read more...
Rolling Stone (p.72) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "On BLACK RADIO, pianist Robert Glasper heads down the fraught path of hip-hop jazz and gets it right. The 'experiment' spirit pervades the entire album, informing everything from song structures to production."
Magnet (p.58) - "[S]eamlessly merging historical and contemporary black musics -- jazz, hip hop, soul, fusion-era Miles Davis and the outer regions of Sun Ra's Afro-Futurism -- into one united radio program."
Billboard (p.60) - "[T]he keyboardist/producer/songwriter/bandleader knows no boundaries, deftly incorporating hip-hop, R&B and rock in to a fresh sound that never comes off as trite or forced."
Q (Magazine) (p.108) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Erykah Badu covers Coltrane, Lalah Hathaway takes on Sade, Bowie's 'Letter To Hermione' becomes a rolling jazz samba..."
Uncut (magazine) (p.84) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Glasper covers Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. It's an ingenious arrangement, featuring juddering, minimal percussion, spare piano chords and vocoders that soar to the edge of the studiosphere..."
Personnel: Robert Glasper (piano); Chris Dave (drums).
Audio Mixer: Qmillion.
Liner Note Author: Angelika Beener.
Recording information: Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY; Threshold Sound, Los Angeles, CA.
Photographers: Cognito; Michael Schreiber; Jewell Green.
Black Radio is the first standalone recording by the electric Robert Glasper Experiment. Glasper's keyboards are augmented by saxophonist/vocoderist Casey Benjamin, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Chris Dave. The album title is firmly aimed at its subjects. The band constantly blur the lines between jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and rock. The 12-song set features guest vocals by Shafiq Husayn, Erykah Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, Ledisi, KING, Musiq Soulchild, and Chrisette Michele, Meshell Ndegeocello, Stokley Williams, and Mos Def. It also contains a jazz cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to close the set.