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
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.
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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
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.