Back in April pianist Robert Glasper told Downbeat Magazine that jazz needs a wake-up call. He says he has “gotten bored with jazz,” and it “needs a big-ass slap.” And Glasper’s music proves how strongly he believes this. Since his 2007 In My Element, Glasper has embraced modern popular influences in his writing and arranging, creating pieces that blend hip-hop, modern R&B, and jazz seamlessly. In My Element evens features a song titled “J Dillalude,” which is the trio performing beats by great rap producer J Dilla, who passed away in 2006.
While In My Element is performed exclusively by Glasper’s acoustic trio of drummer Damion Reid and bassist Vicente Archer, his following release, 2009’s Double-Booked, features that same acoustic trio on half and his electric Experiment on the other half, which consists of Chris Dave on drums, bassist Derrick Hodge, and multi-instrumentalist Casey Benjamin on woodwinds. 2012 saw the first full length Robert Glasper Experiment album, Black Radio, which also features extensive guest vocalists, including rappers like Lupe Fiasco and Mos Def as well as singers like Bilal, Erykah Badu, and Meshell Ndegeocello.
Frankly, I don’t love Black Radio, but I’m always excited to hear someone creating unique music. The song below is “J Dillalude,” which besides being a tribute to a great musician is an awesome idea that is executed perfectly. At once head-bopping and melodically and harmonically nuanced, “J Dillalude” functions as a great study in just how closely hip-hop and jazz and really related.