Chris Daly is the last Soulquarian.
With the exception of Joe Cocker, I can think of no other artist who has spent as much of his career transforming the works of others into something distinctly his own as Robert Glasper. The criminally under-the-radar jazz pianist recently proved the point with Covered, his latest outing on Blue Note. While Glasper is well known among hep cats everywhere, he doesn’t appear to have reached the public consciousness of fellow contemporary luminaries such as Kamasi Washington or Thundercat, though all three played major roles on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. If that wasn’t enough, the Grammy-toting artist has recorded with such names as Bilal, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Mos Def and, I wouldn’t be surprised, possibly even your mother (I don’t know your Moms like that, so I can’t really say definitively, but you get the point).
On Covered, Glasper pulls a Jake Elwood and gets the original band back together. Re-enlisting bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid, who filled out Glasper’s trio on his first Blue Note recordings. During the intro, Glasper elaborates that most of the tracks are acoustic reinterpretations of some of his favorite recordings, going so far as to say initial album title was going to be “iPod Shuffle,” but that was scrapped for presumably obvious copyright issues.
The entire set was recorded live in front of an invitation-only audience at Capitol Records’ infamous Studio A in Hollywood, site of legendary recording sessions by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Nancy Wilson, The Beach Boys to The Beastie Boys. He runs through a litany of hits and styles, including Radiohead’s “Reckoner,” Joni Mitchell’s “Barangrill,” and “I’m Dying of Thirst” by the aforementioned Mr. Lamar.
While the acoustic set-up gives a more subdued vibe than works like his Black Radio series, the music is no less driven or emotional. The stand-out track is clearly “In Case You Forgot,” a 13-minute workout that delves in and out of impressive finger work while incorporating recognizable snippets of such classics as, Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” to name a few.
The trio quickly get into a groove and never really lets up. While the album is less indebted to the genre-jumping that Glasper generally employs, the resonance is on par with any of his previous works. The lack of vocals and a more hip-hop/R&B sound are apparent, but Glasper clearly is not one to be bound by anyone else’s boundaries.