Hailing from Houston, Texas, Robert Glasper is a jazz pianist with a knack for mellow, harmonically complex compositions that also reveal a subtle hip-hop influence. Inspired to play piano by his mother, a gospel pianist and vocalist, Glasper attended Houston's High School for the Performing Arts. After graduation, he studied music at the New School University in Manhattan, where he found performance work with such luminaries as bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, and others. After graduating college, Glasper worked with a variety of artists, including trumpeter Roy Hargrove, vocalist Carly Simon, and rapper Mos Def. The pianist released his debut album, Mood, on Fresh Sound New Talent in 2004. Canvas and In My Element followed in 2005 and 2007, respectively, on Blue Note Records.
In 2009, Glasper released the forward-thinking album Double Booked, which featured a mix of modal post-bop and funky, '80s Herbie Hancock-inspired numbers with two separate bands. The first of these was his trio with drummer Chris Dave and upright bassist Vicente Archer; they recorded five originals and a cover of Thelonious Monk's "Think of One." These tracks were followed by five more originals by his electric band, dubbed the Robert Glasper Experiment, featuring Dave, electric bassist Derrick Hodge, and Casey Benjamin on saxes and vocoder.
In 2012, the Robert Glasper Experiment (with a slew of all-star guest vocalists) issued their first stand-alone album, Black Radio, for Blue Note, which sought to blur the boundaries between jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and rock & roll; it entered the jazz charts at number one and went on to win a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album. Later in the year, Glasper and Blue Note released Black Radio Recovered: The Remix EP; 9th Wonder, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Pete Rock were among those who participated.
In 2013, the Robert Glasper Experiment (now including Hodge and Benjamin with drummer Mark Colenburg) returned with their equally star-studded sophomore album, Black Radio 2. It also won a Grammy, this time for Best Traditional R&B Performance for the cover of Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children of America."
Glasper returned to his original acoustic piano trio format with bassist Archer and drummer Damion Reid. They cut 2015's Covered live at Capitol Studios in front of an invited audience. The album's pre-release single was a reading of Radiohead's "Reckoner"; it was released in April and followed by the album in June. ~ Matt Collar & Thom Jurek