Arriving on the heels of February’s critically acclaimed Black Radio, jazz pianist Robert Glasper’s new release Black Radio Recovered — The Remix EP offers a fresh reinterpretation and re-examination of five tracks from the February release — and a new tribute to J. Dilla.
Black Radio Recovered — The Remix EP
Blue Note Records
Black Radio featured an amalgamation of styles — not strictly jazz, R&B or soul — and a stunning list of guest features, including Yaasin Bey, Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, Lalah Hathaway and Erykah Badu. The remix EP picks up where Black Radio left off, adding contributions from ?uestlove and the Roots, Solange Knowles and 9th Wonder, among others.
Glasper’s original release created a smooth, soulful ambiance by way of his piano which, when not busy soloing, provided open and airy jazz-tinged riffs. These proved best when accompanying the sultry vocal stylings of Erykah Badu on “Afro Blue” or in contrast with Yaasin Bey’s staccato, fast-paced rapping on “Black Radio.” However, Black Radio stumbled a bit in terms of sonic quality: The bass often felt overpowering, and the tracks in general seemed a bit muddy, with the exception of Glasper’s piano (which, for the most part, was clean and crisp).
The Remix EP has generally remedied the sonic shortcomings of its predecessor — with the exception of the original track “Dillalude #2” — creating a much crisper texture, particularly by way of the bass and drums. Unfortunately, this cleaner sound comes at the expense of the piano, which is often overpowered by the percussion, and falls into the background.
In terms of content, the EP pulls the songs more toward the hip-hop spectrum and away from jazz and R&B. This can most clearly be seen on “Letter to Hermione,” which now features a verse by Black Milk, and “The Consequences of Jealousy,” which, in remix form, has something of an ’80s throwback vibe (not unlike the work of Theophilus London). In general, the remixes feature much more sampling, more hip-hop drumbeats and a less prominent role for Glasper’s piano.
The original track, “Dillalude #2,” works off of the same concept. Glasper’s jazz touch is more clearly evident as the song breaks down into a dark, sensuous piano and bass riff, and at the end of the song, where he works a subtle paraphrase of J. Dilla’s “Fall in Love” instrumental into his outro.
When you collect the amazing group of musicians and producers featured on Black Radio into a studio together, magic is bound to happen. When you get even more amazing musicians to take those same songs back into the studio and put their own spin on them, even more magic should be expected. This is clearly the case with Black Radio Recovered.
The work by ?uestlove et. al., for the most part, has remedied the sonic shortcomings of the EP’s inspiration, while adding new flavors and colors to an already stunning musical experience. Strict jazz fans will probably prefer Black Radio to this new EP, but even for such picky audiences, the homage to J. Dilla features enough of Glasper’s piano prowess to make this new release worth a listen.
Bottom line: The work done by Glasper and his collaborators here is worthy of the same praise received by its predecessor, and in some respects, improves on the original product.