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Multitalented musician and collaborator Robert Glasper.EXPAND
Multitalented musician and collaborator Robert Glasper.
Mathieu Bitton

Robert Glasper Delivers Jazz Piano and Hip-Hop Fusion to 1-800-Lucky

Robert Glasper has come a long way. Sometimes talent isn't enough to launch an artist into the mainstream, so the jazz pianist fused his melodic compositions with hip-hop collaborations and made a name for himself.

"The average jazz pianist can only reach so far when it comes to getting fans," Glasper admits.

After realizing early the struggle most jazz pianists face in getting their music heard, Glasper made it a priority to work with big-name artists such as Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Mos Def. The three-time Grammy-winning pianist — along with Chris Dave, Derrick Hodge, and DJ Jahi Sundance — is set to perform at 1-800-Lucky during Miami Art Week.

"I've done it on my own as much as I could..." he says, "but it's fun, new, different, and inspiring to use other people too."

One of his more recent collaborations is with Common and Karriem Riggins, who together form the supergroup August Greene. The group was slated to perform at the Arsht Center November 18 but canceled due to scheduling conflicts, though Glasper hopes to bring them back. August Greene released an album this past May and is in the studio preparing for a release. 

Glasper's projects and collaborations never fall short of impressive and unique. Another of his groups, R+R=NOW, is a dream team led by Glasper and featuring Terrace Martin on synthesizer and vocoder, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah on trumpet, Derrick Hodge on bass, Taylor McFerrin on synth and beatbox, and Justin Tyson on drums. Released this past May, their album Collagically Speaking was written and performed in one take in the studio. "It was literally like an experiment," Glasper says with a chuckle. "We trusted each other and came up with something on the fly." The album is intended not to be solo-based but instead focused on "mood and vibes," which can be felt through the splashes of Martin's vocoder and soothing trumpet riffs from Scott throughout.

Of course, Glasper's prolific music career doesn't stop in the studio. In October, he completed a 48-show residency at New York City's Blue Note Jazz Club. The run of shows included surprise special guests such as Anderson .Paak, Lupe Fiasco, and Mos Def and wrapped up with performances by R+R=NOW. Glasper recalls a hilarious moment onstage in which Anderson .Paak called him on the phone during the bassist's solo to ask if the show was over yet. "I started talking to him on the phone during the solo, and people were like, 'Oh my God, he's talking on the phone!'" he says. "When I hung up the phone, literally after the bass solo, Anderson .Paak walked in and jumped onstage."

That onstage banter was present at Glasper's last performance in Miami too. He was in town for 2018's GroundUp Music Festival, a three-day event at the North Beach Bandshell presenting some of the most talented jazz acts from around the world and hosted by Michael League of Snarky Puppy. The festival, Glasper says, is a vital opportunity for musicians and audiences alike.

"Most people don't go to Miami to play, and you would think I would have been to Miami way before GroundUp Festival," he admits, "so I think it's great that [Michael League] is doing that because it brings so many great musicians — he's providing a platform."

Robert Glasper. With Chris Dave, Derrick Hodge, and DJ Jahi Sundance. 9 p.m. Wednesday, December 5, at 1-800-Lucky, 143 NW 23rd St., Miami; 305-768-9826; 1800lucky.com. Tickets cost $30 via eventbrite.com.

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