Jazz mu­si­cian lets eclec­tic tastes flow

Los Angeles Times - - POP & HISS - — Chris Bar­ton

When key­boardist Robert Glasper re­leased the ful­l­length de­but from his pro­ject the Experiment in 2012, you could hear the jazz mar­ket­place shift­ing. Freely draw­ing from hip-hop and R&B, “Black Ra­dio” — along with its se­quel “Black Ra­dio 2” — brought Glasper out of jazz clubs and into the pop con­ver­sa­tion, earn­ing a wider au­di­ence, two Grammy awards and the parent­age of an en­tire sub­genre of J Dilla-ref­er­enc­ing jazz record­ings that easily could be called “post-Glasper.” He’s also part of the small co­terie of jazz artists ap­pear­ing on Ken­drick La­mar’s “To Pimp a But­terf ly.”

For his latest al­bum, the 37-year-old Glasper has re­turned to his roots with “Cov­ered,” an acous­tic set recorded live at Capi­tol Stu­dios with the same band from his pre-Experiment days. Mostly made up of cov­ers, the al­bum lets Glasper f lex his eclec­tic taste, cov­er­ing Jhene Aiko’s “The Worst” and “Stella by Starlight” with equal f lair. The pi­anist gets par­tic­u­larly rest­less on “In Case You For­got,” which over 13 tan­gled min­utes winks to­ward history with a few bars of Cyndi Lau­per’s “Time Af­ter Time,” a song Miles Davis was crit­i­cized for cov­er­ing late in his ca­reer.

Whether Glasper would sound good in this for­mat was never in doubt, but there is a sense that he’s not sur­pris­ing us, ei­ther. The jazz con­nec­tion with Joni Mitchell was es­tab­lished be­fore his lilt­ing cover of “Barangrill,” and while Glasper’s take on “Reckoner” deftly chan­nels the song’s cas­cad­ing pi­ano riff, Ra­dio­head hasn’t been a rev­o­lu­tion­ary cover choice for jazz artists since Brad Mehldau was the genre’s next pi­ano star. A nod to­ward La­mar with the al­bum-clos­ing “I’m Dy­ing of Thirst” soberly ref lects the times with chil­dren recit­ing the names of un­armed black lives lost to vi­o­lence, but it also re­calls a piece from his la­bel mate Am­brose Ak­in­musire’s 2014 al­bum.

Amid so much re­ward­ing yet fa­mil­iar ground, “Cov­ered” sounds more like a step side­ways rather than for­ward. Glasper has enough cre­ativ­ity in him to sup­port two dis­tinct mu­si­cal iden­ti­ties. It will be fas­ci­nat­ing to hear what hap­pens when they fi­nally come to­gether.

Glasper per­forms with his trio 9 p.m. Wed­nes­day at the El Rey Theatre, 5515 Wil­shire Blvd., L.A. $27-$37. www.el­reythe­ater.com. Al­bums are rated on a scale of four stars (ex­cel­lent), three stars (good), two stars (fair) and one star (poor).

Blue Note Records

Robert Glasper

“Cov­ered”

(Blue Note) ★★ 1⁄

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