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Arts & Culture

Robert Glasper On Piano Jazz

Robert Glasper.
Erich Schlegel
The Washington Post/Getty Images
Robert Glasper.

Born and raised in Houston, pianist Robert Glasper literally grew up in jazz clubs. His mother performed with a jazz band, and she preferred to bring her young son with her, rather than leave him with a sitter. Glasper and his mother were also active in music at their church — his mother sang and played piano, and by age 12, her son had assumed some of the piano duties.

Glasper confessed to Marian McPartland a childhood dream of playing basketball in the NBA. Despite his more than adequate height for such a career, Glasper's immersion in jazz and an acceptance into Houston's High School for Performing Arts set him on the path toward a career at the piano.

After high school, Glasper moved to New York to study music at the New School. He began gigging around town and found work with such established jazz artists as Christian McBride and Russell Malone. Glasper has gone on to work with Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Terence Blanchard and Jeremy Pelt.

Glasper's Blue Note releases, 2005's Canvas and 2007's In My Element, have both received glowing reviews. Jazz critics praised his adventurous approach and fresh style, while noting the influences of pianists such as McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. The mainstream press has taken notice, too, drawing attention to Glasper's hip-hop-inflected rhythms.

With his band Robert Glasper Experiment,Glasper has thoughtfully fused jazz and other elements to create something else entirely. Its 2013 album Black Radio grew from jamming with a list of lauded R&B, soul, and hip-hop artists from the past two decades including Erykah Badu, Bilal, Lupe Fiasco, Lalah Hathaway, Ledisi, MeShell Ndegeocello, and Yasiin Bey (formally known as Mos Def). Glasper was able to steer the sessions straight into a 2013 Grammy for Best R&B Album. The follow up album, Black Radio 2, was released in October 2013.

Originally recorded Jan. 17, 2006.

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