Two Blue Note releases from Experimenters

artscienceRobert Glasper Experiment – ArtScience (Blue Note): When his country has produced so many different styles of music why should he restrict himself to one? That’s the clearly-stated methodology of pianist/producer Robert Glasper who surely has as influential a position in modern jazz/R&B as Herbie Hancock had in jazz fusion in the 1970s.

This latest release from his core band with saxophonist Casey Benjamin, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Mark Colenburg is a little different in that it features writing, producing (and vocals) from all the band members. Also, unlike previous Experiment albums, there are no guests. What’s most striking about ArtScience is how, despite the eclectic nature of the music and the strong four-way input, it’s so cohesive, a unity no doubt achieved by the extensive touring this band does.

It’s packed with catchy hooks, repeated choruses and a lot of pop attitude but always there are subtle harmonies, distinctive progressions and rhythmic interest supporting the music. Listen to how a track like No One Like You moves from a chart-friendly tune into saxophone solo and then piano solo, subtly morphing along the way into increasingly deeper and jazzier grooves until it comes full circle and back to the hooky head.

the-secondDerrick Hodge – The Second (Blue Note): As the title makes clear, this is the bassist’s second album for Blue Note, and if the Experiment has focussed more strongly on the core band, Hodge contracts even further – a lot of the time the band is just him, with drum beats, synths and multiple basses filling the sound picture.

He does have some guest players, fellow Experimenter Mark Colenburg on drums for three tracks, and he uses a star-filled horn section of trumpeter Keyon Harrold, trombonist Corey King and saxophonist Marcus Strickland.

Compared to the Experiment’s ArtScience, The Second has a more laid-back, stretched-out vibe, the atmospheres developing unhurriedly in tunes like Transitions and Song 3. Like Glasper, Hodge ranges wide and free in his influences, a little country lick emerging here (the irrepressible multi bass and hand percussion of World Go Round), an almost classical motif there. Inevitably, and quite rightly, the Glasper attitude, sound and signature phrasing is strong in Hodge’s work, but the bassist often strips it back to its bare bones – try You Believed as an example.

Two strong new albums for the crossover crew to enjoy.

  • The Robert Glasper Experiment is coming to Birmingham and will be playing a Jazzlines concert in Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday 20 November. More HERE

Categories: CD review

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