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Canvas (2005)

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Robert Glasper

Canvas is pianist Robert Glasper's second recording, and his first on Blue Note. He's joined by bassist Vincente Archer and drummer Damion Reid for the main portion of Canvas, while tenor Mark Turner and vocalist Bilal make two appearances each. Perhaps the first thing a listener might note of Glasper's style on the original, "Rise and Shine," is its rich, melodic flavor. While this lyricism alone would draw the listener in, it's Glasper's ability to develop new ideas as the piece progresses, adding complexity to his lyricism, that really recommends his approach. In the case of the title cut, Glasper and company keep the composition intriguing for nearly ten minutes. It's also nice on Canvas that both Archer and Reid match Glasper's adventurousness, providing an intricate net that both supports his solos and drives them onward. Turner blends effortlessly into the band on the title cut and Herbie Hancock's "Riot," adding a slightly bigger sound and turning in fine lead work. The vocals come rather late in the program on tracks seven and ten, and are not typically what one might expect from vocals (even in jazz). Instead, Bilal's wordless drone, hum, and smooth choral backing mixes like an additional instrument that adds another textural element to the music. Canvas also sounds great, and producer Eli Wolf has done a fine job putting these elements together into an organic whole. Canvas is both melodic and adventurous, and will please both Glasper's fans and anyone who appreciates good piano jazz. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.