SummaryOne artist, two distinct but interwoven concepts: this is the captivating logic behind Double-Booked, pianist Robert Glasper's third album for Blue Note, following up Canvas (2005) and In My Element (2007). An artist who "unfailingly gets the feeling right" (New York Magazine), Glasper has made waves throughout the music world as leader of both the acoustic Robert Glasper Trio and the electric, hip-hop-oriented Robert Glasper Experiment. With Double-Booked the 32-year-old Houston native puts his enviable versatility front and center, emphasizing these different hemispheres of his musical brain at the same time.
The first six tracks on Double-Booked feature Glasper in Trio setting with longtime bassist Vicente Archer as well as drummer Chris Dave, who plays in Glasper's Experiment band but recently came on board the Trio as well. As on In My Element, Glasper underlines the Trio's hip-hop leanings with short fade-in interludes ("little Pete Rock-isms," Glasper says) that function as short codas to some of the tunes. From the outset, with the lyrical flow and supple interaction of "No Worries," one hears what Nate Chinen of The New York Times describes as "spongey, changeable adaptations of hip-hop rhythm tracks...Glasper himself plays as if he's a living sample...in a kind of real-time loop."
"Downtime," set mainly in 7/4, evokes a memory of Glasper looking out the window at the rain - "kind of like the 'F.T.B.' of this record, if you will," Glasper says, referencing a standout track from In My Element. Both "Yes I'm Country (And That's OK)" and "59 South," meanwhile, touch upon Glasper's hometown environment in Texas. The latter references a heavily trafficked highway in Houston, a cultural reference not unlike the Brooklyn Bridge in Glasper's current home base, New York. The Trio portion of Double-Booked culminates with an astonishing treatment of Thelonious Monk's "Think of One." In an ingenious and totally natural overlay, Glasper seizes an opportunity in the last section to quote Ahmad Jamal's "Swahililand," the chord progression that formed the basis of De La Soul's 1996 hip-hop classic "Stakes Is High," co-written by Glasper's hero and friend, the late beatmaster J Dilla.
From that point forward, we are firmly in Experiment-land, with Chris Dave remaining on drums - although the drum sound on this half of the album can be markedly different from the first. "4Eva," a live excerpt featuring rap icon Mos Def, leads us straight into another world. "Butterfly" is originally from Thrust, Herbie Hancock's 1974 landmark album. Casey Benjamin's vocoder effects heighten the mystery of the melody, and a J Dilla beat called "F--- the Police" serves as a rhythmic foundation. Benjamin's arsenal of sonic effects is at the fore of "Festival," colored by Glasper's Fender Rhodes, taking wild, digressive turns over the course of 10 minutes - the Experiment sound at its most representative and expansive.
A short transitional piece, "For You" by Benjamin and drummer Sameer Gupta, leads into "All Matter," a striking, unclassifiable original by vocalist Bilal Oliver. Glasper offers: "You can really do this song in any situation, and it does stick with you. So pretty." Derrick Hodge, the Experiment's bassist, an accomplished composer as well as a top-shelf jazz and hip-hop sideman, contributes the final track, "Open Mind," also featuring Bilal. It's "a spiritual tune" in Glasper's words, with additional textures and voice elements from turntablist Jahi Sundance, the son of alto saxophone great Oliver Lake.