Piano virtuoso Robert Glasper performed a diverse selection of jazz, R&B and hip-hop tunes during his Oct. 21 concert at the Lincoln Theatre in Columbus.
By CHRIS BOURNEA
COLUMBUS OHIO -- Rising young African-American jazz star Robert Glasper turned in an eclectic performance on Oct. 21 at the Lincoln Theatre in Columbus that was worthy of his reputation as a piano virtuoso who seamlessly blends jazz with R&B, hip-hop, rock and gospel.
Glasper opened by addressing the audience informally, joking about the meal he had before the show.
“I just had so chicken strips, so I’m full,” he said.
Glasper is very funny and often employed humor to keep the audience entertained, like when he was snapped his fingers to count down the beginning of a song and acted like he forgot how to count.
Throughout the show, Glasper played the role of musical director, content to let the members of his Robert Glasper Experiment band take extended solos as he played keyboards and looked on from his roost at the side of the stage. The current lineup of Glasper’s band includes Casey Benjamin on vocoder and saxophone, Derrick Hodge on bass and Chris Dave on drums.
Glasper and the band opened with a mellow tune that sounded Asian-inspired. Benjamin used the vocoder to add vocals to most of the songs the band performed, with his voice sounding computerized in the style popularized by Dayton's Roger Troutman and Zapp.
Known for fusing hip hop with jazz, Glasper and company performed a jazzy version of Common’s “The Light.” The band also put a funky take on Sade’s “Cherish.” At one point during the number, Benjamin put down his keyboard and picked up his saxophone, which sounded a lot like a synthesizer.
Glasper also performed a jazzy rendition of Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It.” During one section, Glasper performed a “greatest hits” medley, performing excerpts of well-known R&B and pop songs on the piano, including Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much,” Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” to which the audience sang the chorus.
If there was ever a song that would seem to be impossible to turn into a mellow jazz tune, it’s Nirvana’s hard-rock classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But Glasper and his band somehow managed to pull this off, and got a well-deserved standing ovation in the process.
The show seemed less like a structured concert and more like a jam session with the musicians taking turns doing extended riffs. The diverse audience seemed to have just as much fun as Glasper and his band.