Warning: the worst convention of hip-hop is obeyed – there is some not-exactly PG vocabulary on this record. That said, this is pretty stuff (Erykah Badu’s rendition of “Afro Blue” is in a league of its own) – but the listener may get too tied up in the beauty and sensuality of it all to notice how well the music itself is made and performed. Mr. Glasper mixes a (slow, subtle) hip-hop beat and R&B feel with his jazz piano and various vocalists (singers and rappers). That’s why it’s an “experiment”, not a band. The album doesn’t seem patched together, however; due to compositional and performance style, it all seems to be branches on the same tree. A particularly engaging effect is when Mr. Glasper plays “rapping” on the piano (!) – a single note, variously rhythmed, perfectly accompanies everything else that goes on, shifting places within the beat and in the chords. The result is that that single note seems to be talking, though its language is of course that of the music itself. The vocalists are all amazing, particularly Ledisi in “Gonna Be Alright”, Bilal in “Letter to Hermione” and King (who sound like 1960’s or 70's soul artists) in “Move Love”, and of course Ms. Badu; but in many of the tracks (these included), the vocals are mostly at the beginning and soon make way for expressive piano solos. Whether or not you like that approach, this is still worth several listens.
Except for Afro Blue, there's no redeeming tract worthy of re-listening. I guess this has to do with musicians who try their hand in composing and there's not much melody to make them register. Erykah Badu's version of Afro Blue is all her own!
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