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Photo: Mancy Gant
Photo: Mancy Gant

Robert Glasper’s Jazz Constellation Expands on Black Radio III

The legendary jazzman enlists a star-studded crew for his latest genre-spanning dispatch.

by Daniel McIntosh

Robert Glasper has spent years as a bonafide bridge filtering jazz into the mainstream. He lent his pen to the likes of Herbie Hancock and was an instrumental player on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Hell, he even played piano for Beyoncé in high school (they were classmates). The constellation of contemporary jazz, rap and soul is the centre of his Black Radio III, reviving the franchise for the first time in nine years.

Glasper’s composition brings the best out of his veterans, including Q-Tip and Esperanza Spalding. “It Don’t Matter” is a particular standout, a slow jam duet between Gregory Porter and Ledisi, while Common sounds especially fired up on his addition to a transformative cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

It’s worth noting that this instalment of the trilogy is newly informed by Glasper’s string of residencies at the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club. It’s in those moments, where the freewheeling live energy is tangible on tape, that Black Radio III really shines. III sutures together the disparate threads of Black expression, driven by fragments of pop, soul, jazz and rap as well as spoken word and memoir.  Across mediums and genres, Glasper’s Experiment fills the gaps between, while keeping us firmly rooted to contemporary jazz’s smooth centre.