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Robert Glasper Experiment's Tiny Desk Concert (Video)

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Robert Glasper has performed under various different monikers - The Robert Glasper Trio is Glasper’s acoustic side, while The Robert Glasper Experiment is his outlet for electronic keyboards and jazz that is heavily influenced by R&B and often features singers or rappers. Somewhat confusingly, Glasper brought a trio to NPR’s Tiny Desk studios to play a concert as the Robert Glasper Experiment. Don’t let the names confuse you. Glasper, drummer Mark Colenburg, and bassist Derrick Hodge played a three-song set, the first of which (“Trust”) also featured Marsha Ambrosius (formerly of the R&B duo Floetry) on vocals. Be sure to check out the ill improvisation starting around 9:00 in the video after the jump:

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Equipoise: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Stanley Cowell’s name is unfortunately overshadowed by some monster pianists (say Hancock, Corea, Jarrett), but his playing is well worth seeking out. His work on the keyboard has been sampled for some well-known hip-hop songs (admittedly, this was my introduction to Cowell), but his work in a purely jazz context more than stands up. His contribution to jazz is important for his composition and playing, but also for his founding of the Strata-East label, home to many important albums that otherwise would never have seen commercial release (though few of Cowell’s own records as a leader were released on Strata-East). In my column on "Jitterbug Waltz", I included Stanley Cowell’s mind-blowingly good solo piano version of the tune, and in this column I’ll look at Cowell’s signature composition, "Equipoise".

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"Treachery", "233 Butler", "October 25th", and "Nemesis": A Look at Eric Harland

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Eric Harland is one of the more prolific drummers on the jazz scene today, and his presence on a recording or in a band is (in my listening experience) a guarantee of some great playing, both from the drummer and from the rest of his bandmates. Harland’s drumming has shown up in lots of different settings, mostly as a sideman for some wide-ranging leaders including Dave Holland, Aaron Goldberg, The 3 Cohens, Aaron Parks, Charles Lloyd, Chris Potter, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ravi Coltrane, Jacky Terrasson, and the SFJAZZ Collective, and he also leads his own Voyager band, with Taylor Eigsti on piano, Julian Lage on guitar, Walter Smith III on sax, and Harish Raghavan on bass (more on them below…). Similar to an earlier column I wrote here, I’ll look at a few recent tunes that have featured Eric Harland on the studio and/or live versions. Along with changing the drummer in these tunes, the other personnel changes have led to big differences in the overall feel and structure of these tunes over the span of just a few years.

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Jitterbug Waltz: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

“Jitterbug Waltz” is a tune from Fats Waller written (I am told by wikipedia) in 1942 and released as a 78 rpm single. On that single, Waller opens the tune by playing the melody on a Hammond organ with guitar accompaniment. It’s a catchy, descending melody on the organ. After playing the descending line twice, there’s a little turnaround phrase starting at about 0:30. Just before 1:00, a clarinet joins to play through the head again along with the organ and guitar, and then a bit after 1:30, a full horn section plays the melody along with Waller’s organ for a bigger sound. The horn punctuations are nice here, with Waller adding some nice, watery-sounding organ underneath. It’s a great, catchy tune. Not very much improvisation on this version, as they were limited by the length of a 78 rpm record. The tune has served as a platform for future improvisers, though, and has taken on lots of new forms since 1942.