Most recently astronomers have discovered a new planet dubbed "55 Cancri e", the rocky world is twice the size of earth but has eight times its mass, thus classifying it as a "super earth." Whenever a new planet is discovered, astronomers and the media alike start a buzz of excitement to announce the discovery. Well, on September 26th at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, there was a discovery in the music world of the magnitude of "55 Cancri e", it was the Robert Glasper Experiment. The 34-year old Blue Note recording artist, Robert Glasper has been on the jazz scene for many years and has been putting out hit after hit since his debut of "Mood" in 2003. On his 2012 release "Black Radio," Glasper takes his music to new heights of genre originality with tastes of hip/hop, fusion, electronica, R&B while all still centering around his unique personal jazz style. Glasper refuses to be pigeon holed into a single genre and in the process, takes the listener on a musical journey of epic proportion.
"Black Radio" features an assortment of headlining guest vocalists and rappers such as Shafiq Husayn, Erykah Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, Ledisi, King, Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele, Meshell Ndegeocello, Stokley, and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def.) How Glasper came up with this diverse cast and fit them on a single fluid album is all evidence to his brilliance as a musical artist. Glasper also surrounds himself with masterful sidemen that drive the deep groove with Casey Benjamin out front on vocoder and sax, Derrick Hodge on bass, and Mark Colenburg on drums. One would think that not being able to feature his guest vocalists in all of his live shows would take away from the performance. This show proved quite the contrary. Casey Benjamin steps in to fill the vocal role on the vocoder and adds so much originality to the performance that I wish they would do a version of the album without the original vocalists and just feature Benjamin. The hottest song was a track not found on the album. The group did a version of Radiohead's "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" that was so def, that I'm sure Radiohead is quite proud.
I will be very honest that my first listen to "Black Radio" through me for a loop because I was personally a huge fan of Glasper's four previous jazz releases. However, I trusted that this show would be great regardless of my first impression of the album. After witnessing what I would categorize as a mind-blowing live musical experience, I haven't stop listening to the album the past two weeks. "Black Radio" will be looked at in years to come as a truly revolutionary work of art that defines musical exploration. The Robert Glasper Experience are truly jazz astronomers, thus classifying this a "super album." Bravo Robert. Bravo!