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In the Studio: Robert Glasper

September 16, 2015

In the category of Problems We All Wish We Had, you’ll find Robert Glasper’s challenging decision as to how to follow up his Grammy-winning Robert Glasper Experiment albums, Black Radio and Black Radio 2.

Glasper formed the Experiment after recording with the Robert Glasper Trio for several years. The first Black Radio album shook his fan base and the R&B world mightily with its blend of electronic and acoustic jazz, spoken word, R&B, and hip hop, all embellished with inventive arrangements and effects, and featuring multiple guest vocalists.

With Black Radio 2 (2013), Glasper continued this avant-garde approach, and built on a new fan base that extended into the R&B and electronica realms.

“Now, it’s been five years since I played trio,” Glasper says, “and my friends in the jazz world are like, ‘Where’d you go? You left us!’ I was also feeling like this is the time to give the Black Radio vibe a break. I wanted to go back and do a trio record. I missed playing piano and the piano trio vibe. But I also always want to something different that I haven’t done before.

“So I thought, if I’m going to go trio, I’m not going to go back and just do jazz tunes again. I’ve acquired this mainstream audience, and I want to bring them along on the trio journey. That’s why I chose to do cover songs.”

Glasper also saw potential pitfalls in choosing covers that would fit with his trio return. “I didn’t just want to do all R&B songs,” he explains. “Because that can be corny. I decided to do songs from my iPod: different songs that I’ve loved through the years, from different genres.”

So while the tools and the lineup are stripped down for the trio album Covered, the palette of material is almost as broad as can be, featuring the music of Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, Macy Gray, Jhené Aiko, Kendrick Lamar, Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, and more. “It’s random as hell,” Glasper says. “I love the fact that it’s random.”

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