Jazz Town: Grammy-winning Robert Glasper brings his soulful sounds to KC
Pianist Robert Glasper has occupied a prominent place on the list of new jazz players to watch for a long time. And he didn’t get there and stay there by doing things the conventional way.
Glasper, who comes to the Folly Theater on Saturday, Feb. 18, seems to be expanding the jazz piano tradition by not letting it define him. He grew up with soul, gospel and hip-hop. Flickers of soul and skipping traces of hip-hop rhythms can be heard in his playing often, while the bravura tradition of, say, Bud Powell or Oscar Peterson, might not be heard at all. That’s OK. There are plenty of other pianists doing those traditional things.
Glasper is a gentle persuader. His music makes its statements by suggestion. It seems that in his world, the overall mood and effect are more important than any showy solo could ever be.
He’s flexible. He’s made acoustic trio recordings that have an understated, hypnotic power. And he’s made a widely recognized series of jazz-soul-hip-hop fusion recordings under the title “Black Radio,” doing some of his best work in collaboration with Bilal, Lalah Hathaway, Yasiin Bey and others. (He’s been quoted as saying that present-day jazz needs a slap of energy.)
Now that Glasper has been at it for a while — he’s pushing 40 — his efforts are being rewarded. The first album in the “Black Radio” series won a Grammy for best R&B album. His soundtrack album for the film “Miles Ahead” was a Grammy nominee.
▪ The American Jazz Museum is celebrating the Miles Davis “Birth of the Cool” band by getting a bunch of great musicians together to play those innovative charts. Trumpeter Hermon Mehari, trombonist Marcus Lewis, Forest Stewart on french horn, Bill McKemy on tuba, Dan Thomas on alto sax, Todd Wilkinson on baritone sax, pianist Phil Dunlap, bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Todd Strait will prove that the music, recorded in 1949 and 1950, hasn’t gathered any dust at all. Things get underway with pianist Dunlap giving a talk on the music’s history at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, in the Gem Theater, 1615 E. 18th St., followed by the performance at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, $5 for students.
▪ The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has organist Everette DeVan leading the Monday jam, at 7 p.m. Feb. 13; pianist Paul Shinn’s trio at 7 p.m. Thursday; bassist Bob Bowman’s Bowdog band with tenor saxophonist Matt Otto and guitarist Danny Embrey at 8:30 p.m. Friday; and singer Ida McBeth at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., has singer Kathleen Holeman’s trio at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12, followed by tenor saxophonist Steve Lambert’s quintet at 10:30 p.m.; guitarists Rod Fleeman and Sophia Motta at noon Monday, followed by guitarist Matt Hopper’s trio at 6 p.m. and tenor saxophonist Steve Martin at 10:30 p.m.; guitarist Steve Gray at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, followed by organist Chris Hazelton’s trio at 7 p.m. and drummer Todd Strait’s trio at 11:30 p.m.; organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 6 p.m. Wednesday, followed by saxophonist Ernest Melton’s quartet at 10:30 p.m.; Guitar Elation at 6 p.m. Thursday, followed by pianist Joe Cartwright, bassist Tyrone Clark and Strait at 10:30 p.m.; Holeman again at 2 p.m. Friday, followed by pianist Tim Whitmer’s quartet at 5:30 p.m., trumpeter Ryan Thielman’s quartet downstairs at 8:30 p.m. and Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 upstairs at 10 p.m.; and Holeman once more at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by the return of OJT at 6 p.m., alto saxophonist Michael Shults’ sextet downstairs at 8:30 p.m. and Lambert’s quartet upstairs at 10:30 p.m.
▪ The Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., presents bassist and composer Robert Castillo’s sextet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15.
▪ Composer and pianist Brad Cox unveils his new octet at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, at the RecordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd.
Joe Klopus, 816-234-4751