Robert Glasper Experiment
SXSW Showcase Reviews
Reviewed by Dan Oko, Fri., March 16, 2012
Robert Glasper ExperimentElephant Room, Thursday, March 15
If it weren't for showcase glitches, it wouldn't be South by Southwest. Then again, Blue Note pianist Robert Glasper and his Experiment are riding high on top-selling new release Black Radio, so it seemed a cruel tease that a crowd hungry for his authentic fusion would be nearly foiled by sound problems. Once the soundboard was sufficiently dialed in to kick off the set, Glasper kept a watchful eye on his talented band, featuring drummer Mark Colenburg, bassist Derrick Hodge, and the outstanding Casey Benjamin on vocoder and saxophone. A late start, occasional crackling speakers, and a poorly grounded piano were no match for the stripped-down quartet. It warmed up on John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." Then the band drifted to the R&B trip-hop iterations of jazz that Glasper favors, reinventing Roy Ayers' "Tears to a Smile," playing "Lift Off" and "Ah Yeah" from Radio, and closing with a powerful, two-fisted combination of the band's blistering Nirvana cover "Smells Like Teen Spirit." And in tribute to Glasper's late friend and mentor, a J. Dilla medley, a variation on "J Dillalude" that appeared on his 2007 disc In My Element. Solos abounded. A bigger space was warranted.