On his most recent album, the impressive Double Booked (Blue Note, 2009), pianist Robert Glasper splits the tracks between The Robert Glasper Trio and The Robert Glasper Experiment. The Experiment tracks have a distinct hip-hop vein running through them, propelled by the drumming of Chris Dave and are, well, experimental. Based on personnel, it was the Robert Glasper Experiment that showed up to play an SFJazz gig at the YBCA Forum last night, not the Trio as billed.
Doesn't matter. With Derrick Hodge on acoustic bass and Chris Dave on the drums, the three of them gave an impressive, humor-laden performance that was as notable for its personal interactions between them as much as the musical ones. Let's just say watching these guys is like hanging out people you've known a long time who are deeply immersed in their own long-running shtick- and Chris Dave is one funny guy, not to mention an extremely talented and inventive drummer.
Opening with "One For 'Grew" from 2007's In My Element, the first set flowed from one song to another across post-bop terrain, infected by Dave's unusual beats and cymbal work. Glasper and Dave were at opposite ends of the stage facing one another during, taunting each another at times, with the imposing Hodges set between them like the beam on a scale, keeping everything centered. Glasper announced what songs they played after awhile, but I couldn't catch them all.
He started messing with the band (and the audience) as he began to play Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," prompting Dave to start walking offstage in bemused disgust. Next Glasper tried a little Bonnie Raitt and some Bruce Hornsby, but that didn't play either. After the first notes of "Send in the Clowns" Dave started to dismantle his kit. It was all pretty funny, as Glasper wore a "what? me?" look on his face. It reminded me of the Thanksgiving scene in She's Gotta Have It. Then they got serious with an impressive, extended improvisation of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" which for me was the highlight of the two sets.
The next stops on their tour take them to Kansas City, MO, Cambridge and Northampton in MA, Washington DC, Creedmoor, NC and then a four night stand in Chicago. Check the site for dates and venues. The band is definitely worth seeing live.
Here's a video of the group shot in Paris last year, their musicianship on full display:
Before the show Glasper had a lengthy discussion with SFJazz's Rebeca Mauleon, but the Elder Swede and I missed most of it because we were having dinner and drinks at Credo. Chef Gustavo Romero gave us a duck confit appetizer that fell of the bone and was simply delicious, as was the rest of the meal and the Manhattans.
After the show, we strolled over to First Crush for more Manhattans, and heard one of the funniest jokes in recent memory. Do you know what the difference is between jelly and jam?