Jazz pianist and producer Robert Glasper is at the head of the class when it comes to breaking rules in his genre. Known for thinking outside of the musical box, he fuses Hip Hop, Soul and Jazz to create his own element and niche in one of the oldest forms of music. Robert’s formula for groundbreaking music spins from the sounds of bold lyrics and vocals that accompany powerful instruments, and equal a new look at jazz.
“It seems like jazz musicians who are able to play more than one instrument are frowned upon these days,” he says. “Jazz is the mother and father of most music and of urban music. It laid the foundation for music because without it, there would be no Hip Hop, Blues or Rock music. Without slaves humming, Blues music wouldn’t exist. We as black people contributed so much to music and it’s a slap in the face to the innovators and our ancestors when we don’t recognize it. When you frown on Hip Hop, you frown on your brother.”
With a conscious effort to bring awareness to the jazz music, the Houston native pays homage to the legends of the industry and says he admires composers Stevie Wonder, Wayne Shorter and Billy Joel, to name a few. However, he admits the younger generation should give props to the newer talents on the scene, and radio stations and music magazines should shed the spotlight on them as well.
Growing with a mother who sang professionally, Robert couldn’t escape music. He attended Houston’s High School for the Performing Arts and said his junior year marked the moment when he realized he wanted to pursue it as a career. His craft continued to blossom at the New School University in Manhattan, where he earned a full scholarship and a plethora of knowledge and experience working with various musicians in his chosen genre.
Since Robert released his first album Mood in 2004 and Canvas, his major-label debut in 2005, he confesses he’s matured in his craft, his views on his music and his opinions about life.
“My state of being, what I represent and what I bring to the table has changed,” he adds. “I no longer care that I’m the best at playing the blues. At the end of the day, no one cares about how technical you are, except for technical people. What your purpose is and what you mean to someone else is what matters. I aim to touch the average person, rather than to impress my musical peers.”
In the Robert Glasper Experiment, the artist released “Black Radio”, which features Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def. The song’s purpose is to ignite a new flame in jazz and to showcase the eclectic and diverse elements of the music.
“People should start thinking outside of the box when it comes to jazz music because you can’t define it,” he says. “There are so many things you can do with this music, so just do it.”
Just before his tour starts on Oct. 3, Robert will perform for the Lucid Life Works and We Love Soul.net event at the House of Blues in Chicago. The Robert Glasper Experiment EP: Black Radio Uncovered will be released on Oct. 9.
by Iya Bakare