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Robert Glasper: Covered: The Robert Glasper Trio Recorded Live at Capitol Studios

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Robert Glasper’s plunge into the world of R&B and hip-hop widened his fan base and earned him a pair of Grammy Awards, but he found himself missing the piano. So he reconvened his original acoustic trio with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid and cut Covered: The Robert Glasper Trio Recorded Live at Capitol Studios. Like Herbie Hancock before him, Glasper demonstrates on his new disc that jazz stars who indulge a taste for popular music can go home again.

Glasper’s piano here is as immediately identifiable as ever: deeply soulful, emphasizing vibe over show-offy virtuosity. That formula dominates a half-dozen sophisticatedly listenable jazz covers of artists ranging from megastars Radiohead (“Reckoner”), Joni Mitchell (“Barangrill”) and John Legend (“Good Morning”) to lesser-known Glasper associates Musiq Soulchild (“So Beautiful”), Jhené Aiko (“The Worst”) and Bilal (“Levels”). He brings more flash to bear on the lone jazz standard here, “Stella by Starlight,” but really reminds people what he is capable of instrumentally on “In Case You Forgot.” The latter chops showcase begins with Glasper, unaccompanied, blazing his way through lighting-quick runs and a kind of space-age stride with pauses for quick, mood-lightening quotes of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Archer and Reid each get their lone, memory-jogging solos on this one as well.

Two socially conscious tunes close the album. Harry Belafonte’s raspy recitation of his life story on “Got Over” is aimed at inspiring listeners, particularly those of color, to follow his lead in overcoming humble origins to achieve greatness. Glasper’s spin on Kendrick Lamar’s “I’m Dying of Thirst” features the pianist’s 6-year-old son, Riley, and other children reading the names of recent black victims of shootings by police.

Originally Published