As part of Ronnie Scott’s International Piano Trio Festival last week, we were delighted with the presence and bravura of the eclectic Robert Glasper Trio. On this occasion, the Trio’s second date at Ronnie's, they were accompanied by the phenomenal DJ Eric Lau whom, having treated the audience to a few mixes prior to the Trio starting, continued to mix and re-mix as Robert, Vicente (Archer on bass) and Damion (Reid on drums) started performing.
The atmosphere is ripe. This is a very responsive crowd and Glasper can be funny, too - a recipe made in Heaven. He starts by telling everyone that he will play Sign o' the Times by Prince, and that he knows him. One hears the ohhhh in the crowd, but then Glasper quickly moves on by saying, “No, not really, well, I met him twice...” Everyone chuckles. Glasper is forgiven since his rendition of one of Prince’s most incredible songs is innovative indeed and just the right piece to start the evening. Vicente’s bass is slick, whilst the piano notes are finely crafted.
It is a full house again at Ronnie's and Glasper is wearing dark glasses - even though the lights are even lower than usual on stage at his request, making the house photographers’ job a little bit more challenging.
Damion’s rhythmic drumming is full of confidence, shifting into a gentle Afro Blue touch, with a subtle hint of A Love Supreme.
A special atmosphere has been created; this requires a pure touch, something unique, something that will last in all the people in that room and all the things in it, too. The Trio manages this with ease and a fervour that is a treat to witness.
Robert Glasper’s fingers move fast over the keyboard. For the aficionados, he is superlative in his playing and connection with the crowd. For the new fans, most of the songs performed on the night are from Covered, the Trio’s new album on Blue Note. Crossing from R&B, to jazz, to soul and more, it is a must listen, so when watching RGT live, it all comes together. It feels like a 360 degree journey, all around and back to base with a new understanding, a new feeling.
Glasper’s dark glasses are now off, looks are exchanged with the other two members - connectivity is the key here. Then Harry Belafonte’s voice comes on, courtesy of Eric Lau’s mixing in the background, and all is quiet. Again, a short but stunning piece featured on the Covered album called Got Over. It is refreshing to see how the Trio has managed to surpass any boundary and offer melody and meaning all in one.
We are approaching the end of the show: Robert’s fingers are still flying on the keyboard and when the beautiful Stella By Starlight takes shape, everything is perfect. An incredible rendition of one of the most important jazz standards, this performance highlights Damion Reid’s amazing talent. Jhené Aiko’s The Worst - which again is featured on Covered - follows, and is both touching and memorable.
Earlier in the evening, Robert gets up from the piano, disappears backstage, only to reappear with a bottle of beer in his hand which he starts pouring into some of the audience’s glasses on the front row. A funny and light-hearted interlude whilst bass and drums are still playing - mixing music with a bit of comedy, Robert Glasper conquers Ronnie Scott’s again!
Photographs courtesy of Carl Hyde, used with permission