GLASPER ARROGANCE

Urgh…. I’m going to fire Downbeat like I fired sports radio! I have to wait till my subscription runs out so my wife doesn’t get her feelings hurt (she buys it for me for Xmas).

Okay, so given my musical tastes I wasn’t exactly thrilled with this months cover story on Robert Glasper simply because I’m not a fan of his music. Talented as he is, its not for me. It was more the title of the article: SLAP: Robert Glasper’s Jazz Wake Up Call. A bit pretentious. I’m not going to get into it, you can read the article yourself and form your own opinions. It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was gonna be and as I read I actually considered buying his record to push my own boundaries and check out what he’a doing. Then the kicker……

When the issue of repertoire choice came up he answered ignorantly and arrogantly: “Everybody’s running around here asking where the audiences are, but they’re not playing anything relevant to the society of now. They’re playing stuff relevant to a society of 1960 or 1940.”

Wow nice work Glasper. Really classy to basically dis your peers and contemporaries who make their musical living playing the great old American Songbook. They may never grace the cover of Downbeat and be relegated to the ‘Players’ or ‘Blindfold Test’ section of the magazine but insinuating that what the play is irrelevant.

Why don’t you just play your shit and do your thing without dissing a whole ‘way’ of playing. I think it might be you that needs a wake up call.

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24 thoughts on “GLASPER ARROGANCE

  1. Arrogant? I’ll say so!
    It seems Glasper has caught the same virus that hit Nicholas Payton. I saw the Robert Glasper trio play a couple of years ago in NYC and the cat *can* play. But his “experiments” make me envy the deaf.
    I did buy his “Double Booked” album….half great straight ahead playing and half hip-hoppy rubbish. What a concept. Needless to say I won’t be buying any future Glasper recordings as long as he’s on this track.

  2. Cory…you hit the Bullseye!
    It seems Robert Glasper has caught some of the same virus that infected Nicholas Payton.
    I heard Glasper’s trio play in NYC a couple of years ago, and the cat *can* play and swing. However, his “experiments” leave me envying the deaf. I bought his “Double Booked” album…half of it good piano trio jazz. The other half just hip-hoppy rubbish.
    Quite a concept. I’ve tuned out Glasper until he stops wasting his talent.

    • Peter – I read most of your article but had to stop as it made me too frustrated. Those kids are immature and likely don’t stand a chance at ‘standing the test of time.’ It’s so sad that they have to say stuff like that in order to look and feel more valid or hipper. I wish more people like Glasper, the group you wrote about and a plethora of other musicians would just play their music and let it speak for itself rather than this constant need to slag the stuff that came before them.

      • Honestly, Glasper’s music has inspired me singlehandedly more than anyone save Vijay, and Mehldau. If you had all heard the bootleg recordings from 55bar i had where he plays his original Tribal Dance, L.L.’s Virgin Forest, and Herbie’s Butterfly as well as Derrick Hodges’ Open mind you’d probably think differently….. The fact that Glasper spoke about the bop and post-bop era’s as a no longer relevant form of music was a bit hot-headed perhaps, but he’s also right in certain regards! I’ve sat at the piano and watched my 19 year old friends nod out as me and my friends play something like donna lee or au privave and when i drop jelly’s da beener they groove, even if its in a meter they dont get! (7/8)…. This being said, listening to Glasper made me go back to the past and study Bill again, and I’ve even checked out Sonny Clark and Wynton Kelly (honestly not enough, not to mention Red Garland). If you love this music you will study what came before it, and if your wise you’ll resist none of it. I see no reason why they cant be muturally existing truths… Petty comments like “Hip-hop rubbish” come out of those who cant integrate new styles and information probably cause they’ve processed so much already and are getting old….. sorry… but you ever notice how stubborn old people get? Either TRY and dig whats happening now or shut up and get along. As for those that shit on the past like BBNG talkin about how institutions wrongfully indoctrinate youth into learning giant step or countdown along with the rest of the “must listens”, well let them be… their self-diservice is evident in the lack of vocabulary and grounded sounds…

      • Glasper isn’t BBNG–he knows the tradition, and he can play.

        And who is he dissing, exactly?

        He’s just telling it like it is without sugarcoating it. The public today simply doesn’t ‘get’ straightahead music. They have no connection to the repertoire, the way it’s played, and no context of the tradition. Why would there be a wide audience for it?

        You can’t really blame Glasper for things being the way they are. Condemning him for wanting to do his own thing won’t change much.

      • “The public today simply doesn’t ‘get’ straightahead music.”

        Really Scott? Examples please?

        No connection to the repertoire? I don’t even know what to say about that comment.

        I respect anyone who tells it like it is. I have built a career on being honest about how I feel. Unfortunately Glasper’s point of view is simply wrong. I also am not condemning him for doing what he’s doing. I really don’t care what he or anyone else does. All I’m saying as I said in the original post is “just do your shit and not take down other people” or something to that effect.

      • Yeah, really.
        Here’s an example. I love Cole Porter’s tunes. The melodies are perfect, the lyrics are clever and the harmonies are gorgeous. It makes it all the more rewarding to make that connection when I hear Trane or Cannonball or whoever playing them. But when they were recording, those tunes were hits, well-known.

        But people today, especially young people, have never heard of Porter. They haven’t seen the musicals and movies that these songs came from. The connection isn’t there.

        But Trane and Cannonball’s music is beautiful, shouldn’t it stand up on its own? I think it should.
        But when I play it for my non-musician friends, they either frown with confusion or tune out and give you a vague “it’s really relaxing” after having not listened.

        It’s a question of having context. People understand the idea of a rock band, of a solo electronic musician, of rapper and producer, of a solo popstar. But not a saxophone quartet, or a big band.

  3. I’ll never forget this story.
    The great jazz trumpeter Sam Noto was doing a clinic (this is probably 20 years ago) and was asked by a student. (I paraphrase)
    “Mr. Noto you are acknowledged as a great Be-bop trumpet player. But in light of all the music that has gone on since Be-bop has been in vogue, are you satisfied with just playing be-bop?”

    Sam’s answer?
    “What would you have me play?”

    Now if you think about it, that is profound.
    I really wonder whether anyone else gets Mr. Noto’s point.

    I sure do, and if you think about it, his question speaks volumes.
    If anyone needs an explanation, ask away.
    Mark

      • Chris, thanks for your thoughtful response. Look, I’m not into arguing about the merits of one musician over the other or who you like vs. who I like and why. We are free to like who we like for whatever reasons we choose.

        My point about Glasper was his comment which I referred to in the post was arrogant, ignorant, immature and not well thought out. Here he is on the cover of the Holy Grail of Jazz Magazines with a big feature and he (whether he meant to or not) disses all the straight ahead pianists and musicians before him and all the small jazz clubs like mine. I didn’t get into this in the post but his “people are running around wondering where the audeinces are” quote was also insulting. I can tell you where they are…they are at The Cellar in Vancouver, lining up for pretty much every single straight ahead jazz act we bring in from Benny Green to Eric Alexander, to local acts such as The Bill Coon Double Quartet to The Ross Taggart Quartet.

        He may have a thing that he’s doing but he is a moron for saying what he said. If I could get his personal email I would but I submitted it through his site but he has about 18 people that you have to go through until you get to him.

    • What Sam’s question means to me is that we (musicians in this case) do what we do. We are compelled to express our craft or art in a way that makes sense to us. No one has the right to expect any more of an artist than an honest and heartfelt expression of the music. Certainly no-one has the right to expect me to play in 7/8 time, because it’s not in me. (maybe I’m just trying to be comfortable playing Body In Should in any key, i mean who has time to master everything?)

      And I have no problem respecting Glasper’s ease with his music, or his choices. Where I do have a problem is when people think some musicians should “get with the program” in an effort to be relevant. THAT, for me would be dishonest, and as a result the music would SOUND dishonest (and bad).

      Another point, many of the standards that the jazz masters were playing were already OLD when they played them. The pop music of the fifties and sixties had little to do with what Coltrane and Adderley were choosing to play. In 1959 when ‘Trane and Cannonball played Limehouse blues the tune was already almost 40 years old.(written 1922) You didn’t see them leaping to play music that was ‘relevant’ at the time. Music like:
      Paul Anka’s – Put Your Head On My Shoulder
      The Chipmunks – Alvin’s Harmonica

      Wonder why they didn’t cover those…?

  4. You really don’t understand what he means by “They’re playing stuff relevant to a society of 1960 or 1940”? Jazz musicians WORSHIP those eras! Benny Green and Eric Alexander are in the one percent of people that actually get by just by playing the American Song Book. The rest of the 99 percent is struggling to get paying gigs, and struggling to have people come out to their shows- because it’s not relevant to anyone but musicians and an older generation! You should also probably talk to some of the people who play at your club, I’m sure that at least half of them would agree with Glasper. It’s astonishing that you think that the American Songbook is relevant anymore. When was the last time you heard it on the radio (not NPR)? Between the 40’s and the 60’s, people went CRAZY for that stuff. In the 21st century, .001% of the world can recognize any of it, or have any relation to it. Something tells me that you overlooked this quote from the article: “The average person’s iPod probably won’t have any jazz on it, or maybe it has Kind Of Blue or a John Coltrane record that someone told them to get. I’m trying to change that around. My campaign is not to convince everybody to love Wynton Kelly. There’s a generational gap; just like old people don’t like hiphop, young people probably aren’t going to like jazz. I’m not mad at that. I just want them to like whatever I’m bringing to the table, whether it’s jazz or not.” If you disagree with anything he said there, then you my friend, are in denial.

  5. … “Here he is on the cover of the Holy Grail of Jazz Magazines” … seriously? >Deadbeat< magazine has a much greater history of being mocked by true artists of #BAM.

    There hardly exists a worthy magazine that could claim to cover the monumental contributions of this music called "jazz" …. it's like notes from the plantation as far back as I can remember (and that's at least a half century).

    If you have any idea of the brilliant souls that have been playing #BAM over the last century … that's what's relevant. Media that makes a tidy income talking about it is largely irrevelant.

  6. Saying that the audience for certain types of jazz has disappeared DOES NOT mean that he is dissing those styles.

    There may be certain spots where a night of straight ahead, or whatever, draws a crowd, but this is certainly the exception, not the rule.

    Jazz is alive; it has just taken a different form, as it has over and over again throughout time.

    I think you are overreacting.

    • Raymon, thanks for the note. I don’t agree with everything you said but I do agree that perhaps I overreacted but I still think Glasper could’ve chosen his words more carefully but that’s just me.

  7. Cory,
    I totally agree with the fact that people should not put down another style of music simply because they find it irrelevant.

    I also dont think Glasper minds or cares that there are guys out there who want to preserve and vivify a musical context which is from a previous perhaps nearly bygone era (no offense). Im not saying the music has no pertinence or place, simply that people dont go to clubs and dance to swing music, nor do they really go check out bop musicians for hours on end. (ivan’s point) Even those two styles created conflict in their time!

    Glasper is trying to tap into youth, and though it may seem like arrogance (and maybe him and payton are on a kind of high horse, i dunno, but i know to be judgmental or judgement is certainly silly), i really think he has an appreciation for tradition and could be a stepping stone for contemporaries to step back and maybe even start to learn and like “the classics”, like he did for me…… IN other words, Glasper may in fact be good for swing feel jazz (rarer by the minute) and may actually be a tool to preserve this beautiful lineage… (of course however condescension and his pride wont help him or others.)

    • Chris, again you make good points but your quote below is simply wrong.

      “simply that people dont go to clubs and dance to swing music, nor do they really go check out bop musicians for hours on end. (ivan’s point) Even those two styles created conflict in their time!”

      Especially the last part about Bop musicians. I’ve had a jazz club for 12 years who’s bread and butter are bop musicians and there are 100’s that are in the same boat. to make a generalized statement like that is ludicrous. what’s happening in NYC? Smoke, Dizzy’s, the Vanguard, Blue Note, Smalls…what are they booking? I would say 80 to 90% straight ahead music and everytime I go there which is at least 3 times a year those places are packed.

      I don’t ever hear people asking for Glasper, Rudresh, Moran etc. Even our own festival has booked more and more straight ahead music because the other stuff doesn’t sell.

      Glasper alone is talented and I don’t begrudge him for his success but the public listen to what the media says and the media for some strange reason latches on to anything that they feel is new or different and have a really hard time differentiating between what’s good and bad. Glaspers success is in no way representative of the future of jazz or the state of jazz. Hell the young people that he’s trying to reach can’t afford his shows anyways.

      I appreciate the dialogue

      • In hindsight I see that my comment was too generalized and is therefore inaccurate. I’m sure that WITHIN the jazz scene there are many aficionados of bop and the straight ahead scene. Although one point I would make is that often at te vanguard and standard I see scattered seemingly well off European couples not consistent youth attendance. At bird land its often corporate white collars with their female companions chatting away over the music not leaned in ears open and eyes fixed.

        (Not that we as musicians should concern ourselves wIth this too much, although we all gotta make a living) but what I was referring to was pop culture.. I’m a 19 year old who started playing jazz at 15.. Almost everything I’ve learned I learned from Jeremy Manasia and MSM precollege, a place where straight ahead is definitely appreciated, now I study at McGill in Montreal and within that hang you find some more divergent fields but still a lot of straight of head. People involved in these fields of study love, support, and promulgate the classic and perhaps truest forms of jazz, bop really… But look at vijay iyer or peralta that music is even more accessible to my ear and it’s modal and in shit like 21/8. Alllll of the music that’s happened since post bop has also “tainted” the ears of the youth and my point is rather than looking at a cat like glasper as a domineering force perhaps watering down the typical associations with jazz I prefer to look at him as a boundary dissolving agent who may bring youth whom would otherwise consider jazz relatively inaccessible/ not relevant into a new and developing sound. maybe even hipping them to a part of musical history they’ve generally overlooked, teeming it “relaxing or elevator music” as Scott said. And maybe just maybe theyll appreciate metheny or bud powell that much more cus something similar is happening today, albeit with brand new fields. Glaspers attitude and comments may not be indicative of enough appreciation for the classics as one may hope, nonetheless I think his popularity has and will do good for redefining the styles and relevance of jazz, as well as providing a doorway for a revitalization of bop….(much like how growing up alternative rocks popularity brough about resurgences in my generations checkin out zeppelin and the Beatles etc. they’re neeeddsss to b an accessible contemporary starting point and I believe glaspers hip-hop incorporations may do just that…

        Thanks for taking the time to check out this convo anyone who has

    • Chris,

      You said: “listening to Glasper made me go back to the past and study Bill again, and I’ve even checked out Sonny…”

      This makes sense to me.We find our way into this music (jazz, whatever THAT is) in the strangest ways. I won’t bother going into what got ME interested, but many different things did. Chief, and first, among them was the blues, Otis Spann, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers… The Paul Butterfield Blues Band .. Cream, of all things.
      And i’m a PIANO player for crying out loud.

      Now years later I realized that some of the side musicians in The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were playing MODAL jazz!

      Now, here’s my rant. The lack of present interest in the feeling (not the FORM) of ‘the blues’, the emotional cry… is what i feel is lacking in the influence of many young players. However, given time players get drawn to this feeling somehow.

      • Yeah exactly listening to P.B.B.B and cream were heavy for me to. Claptons cream was the first solo I ever bothered learning and I’m a piano player too! The emotional content is absent a lot I would agree, but look at Derek trucks tho he’s not that young he doesn’t express his content visually but no-one can argue its presence.

  8. In hindsight I see that my comment was too generalized and is therefore inaccurate. I’m sure that WITHIN the jazz scene there are many aficionados of bop and the straight ahead scene. Although one point I would make is that often at te vanguard and standard I see scattered seemingly well off European couples not consistent youth attendance. At bird land its often corporate white collars with their female companions chatting away over the music not leaned in ears open and eyes fixed.

    (Not that we as musicians should concern ourselves wIth this too much, although we all gotta make a living) but what I was referring to was pop culture.. I’m a 19 year old who started playing jazz at 15.. Almost everything I’ve learned I learned from Jeremy Manasia and MSM precollege, a place where straight ahead is definitely appreciated, now I study at McGill in Montreal and within that hang you find some more divergent fields but still a lot of straight of head. People involved in these fields of study love, support, and promulgate the classic and perhaps truest forms of jazz, bop really… But look at vijay iyer or peralta that music is even more accessible to my ear and it’s modal and in shit like 21/8. Alllll of the music that’s happened since post bop has also “tainted” the ears of the youth and my point is rather than looking at a cat like glasper as a domineering force perhaps watering down the typical associations with jazz I prefer to look at him as a boundary dissolving agent who may bring youth whom would otherwise consider jazz relatively inaccessible/ not relevant into a new and developing sound. maybe even hipping them to a part of musical history they’ve generally overlooked, teeming it “relaxing or elevator music” as Scott said. And maybe just maybe theyll appreciate metheny or bud powell that much more cus something similar is happening today, albeit with brand new fields. Glaspers attitude and comments may not be indicative of enough appreciation for the classics as one may hope, nonetheless I think his popularity has and will do good for redefining the styles and relevance of jazz, as well as providing a doorway for a revitalization of bop….(much like how growing up alternative rocks popularity brough about resurgences in my generations checkin out zeppelin and the Beatles etc. they’re neeeddsss to b an accessible contemporary starting point and I believe glaspers hip-hop incorporations may do just that…

    Thanks for taking the time to check out this convo anyone who has..

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