When the name on the marquee reads “The Robert Glasper Experiment,” you never know what to expect. Glasper’s group routinely crosses the boundaries between jazz, hip hop, R&B, soul – you name it, he’s likely done it.
Wednesday (June 29) night’s performance at Nathan Phillips Square was an excellent display of musicianship. Glasper held down the piano and keyboards while Casey Benjamin rocked saxophones and the vocoder. Mark Colenburg joined on drums and Burniss Travis played bass.
Robert Glasper brought a laid-back and fun mood to the stage, exchanging humorous glances with his bandmates and not taking his performance overly seriously. I’m sure his red-coloured drink helped with that effort. Their tunes ranged from Black Radio staples such as “Aw, Yeah” to covers of contemporary songs like Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Glasper introduced one of his songs as a tune that he helped write, then sprang into Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.”
The audio mixing was a bit uneven for my taste. Benjamin’s vocoder and saxophone lines, while very melodic, were driven through a speaker that gave off a tinny, overamplified sound. It was a shame because at times it drowned out the rhythm section’s smooth grooving.
Glasper stuck around after the show to meet fans, sign autographs and take pictures before stopping by the Late Night Jam at The Rex for a few minutes. Although his time in Toronto was short, Robert Glasper certainly left a lasting impression on all those at the show. With any luck he’ll come back North again soon.