Hot on the heels of his new “Covered” album, which was recorded at the famous Capitol Studios in Hollywood before a live audience, Robert Glasper returns to Berlin for a Saturday night performance at Kreuzberg’s Gretchen.
On his album, he recorded tracks from Bilal, Joni Mitchell, or Radiohead in acoustic trio versions with some special guests like Musiq Soulchild on the wonderful ballad “So Beautiful”. Robert actually sounds a bit like Brad Mehldau on “Reckoner”, the Radiohead piece. Is it because Brad has recorded Radiohead material himself? The track is strangely faded out and then back in again for what purpose? It really destroys the song. The Joni Mitchell song “Barangrill” (from her landmark “For The Roses” LP from 1972 – but then, which Joni album isn’t a landmark album?) deftly captures the essence of Frau Mitchell in this fancy trio recording.
Bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid and the leader all open up for the free-flowing “In Case You Forgot”, a 13-minute playground. There’s also a soulful, intense and dramatic version of Jhené Aiko‘s superb “The Worst” with some sexy percussive work by Damion. And the John Legend song “Good Morning” is trimmed down to its naked beauty: a nice and easy, simple and effective love song. There is just one standard on the album which in this case really fits extremely well: the Ned Washington/Victor Young “Stella By Starlight” has Robert catching all the stars with verve, sweeping them all away with engaging oomph. Again, the piece is faded out which really comes over as a bad mistake.
The somber mood continues with the Bilal-penned “Levels” which enhances slowly but surely to a melancholy plea. Harry Belafonte guests on the eerie and short “Got Over” and the Kendrick Lamar track “I’m Dying Of Thirst”, the socio-political denouncement, is treated here with the voices of several children speaking about being brown and about simply being happy of who you are. Backed by a meandering beat with some more of those neat drum work by Damion Reid.