Keyboardist Robert Glasper definitely didn't start the J Dilla craze, but it's a pretty safe bet he was the first jazz musician to put Dilla's beats in trio form. Not to mention he was one of the first bandleaders to actually make the hip-hop-jazz thing palatable to a hip-hop audience and successfully navigate both words. Now, with everyone and their mom trying to unseat him, Glasper's having trouble topping himself. His new album, Double Booked, is an ostentatious attempt to highlight both sides of his musical persona: One half features the trio with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Chris Dave; the other half is the Experiment, a hip-hop combo with Casey Benjamin on saxes and vocoder, electric bassist Derrick Hodge, R&B vocalist Bilal (who cameos on "All Matter" and "Open Mind"), rapper Mos Def (who raps for about 37 seconds on "4Eva"), DJ Jahi Sundance (on "Open Mind"), and Dave, again, on drums. Answering-machine drops from Terence Blanchard and ?uestlove serve as additional signifiers to tie the theme together.
But for that one Mos Def track (wasted space), it actually works. The success of Double Booked is due largely to Glasper's creativity. Trained as a gospel pianist but refined in New York City's New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, he has a real downtown sound but keeps a lot of blues licks in his arsenal. Sometimes the homegrown gospel side comes through — as on the aptly named "Yes I'm Country (And That's OK)" — but for the most part, Glasper skews contemporary. He's actually more sedate on this recording than in his live shows, until you get to "Think of One," a rather challenging interpretation of an old Thelonious Monk tune.
The real payoff of Double Booked is Glasper's backup. Benjamin is a terrific saxophonist, but his vocoder sounds even better. Dave is one of the tightest drummers in the game. As a unit, they're sensational. (Blue Note)
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