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Double Booked (2009)

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Robert Glasper

There is a certain hipness in title of Double Booked that reflects the hipness of the music itself. It hints at two voicemail messages by Terrence Blanchard and ?uestlove, respectively, that ask Robert Glasper about apparently being double booked on the same night with two different bands at different clubs. The irony in that paradox is that Glasper performs with his acoustic trio on the first half of the record, and with his Experiment on the second half. Glasper’s trio is a crack unit with Chris Dave on drums and bassist Vincente Archer. They understand where he’s at rhythmically and know how to knot things up and swing simultaneously. The expansive harmonics inherent in the album’s first two tracks -- the skittering flow on “No Worries” that takes its post-bop seriously with some amazing improvisation, and the more open, airy lyricism on “Yes I’m Country (And That’s OK)" -- are kind of opposite ends of the coin, but they're underscored and punctuated by an innovative reading of Thelonious Monk’s “Think of One” to close the trio part of the record. The Experiment's half begins as Mos Def raps over Glasper's Rhodes piano and Dave’s hip-hop drums. It expands from here with Derrick Hodge’s funky electric bass, and saxophonist’s Casey Benjamin's use of a vocoder over Dave's breakbeats. The centerpiece is the ten-minute “Festival,” an ultra-modern, funky jazz tune with some complex improvisational navigation. Glasper plays acoustic piano and Rhodes going head to head with that low-tuned funky bass and Benjamin’s outward-bound sax and spacy vocoder. Bilal joins the band on the last two cuts. He is as comfortable singing jazz and soul as he is hip-hop; he’s a kindred spirit for Glasper. “All Matter” walks on the hip-hop side of jazz, and Hodge's “Open Mind,” which makes use of Jahi Sundance’s turntablism, is a midtempo ballad drenched in experimental jazz and nu-soul as Dave practices frantic breaks inside the shimmering melodic structure. Another notable thing about Double Booked is that it was recorded completely live in the studio. This is modern jazz that extends into popular music -- without compromise. ~ Thom Jurek