Review and pictures by John Watson
Town Hall, Birmingham UK
“This one is for the ladies . . .” – Herbie Hancock, Town Hall, Birmingham, 1975.
“This one is for the ladies . . .” - Robert Glasper, Town Hall, Birmingham, Sunday night.
I had a déjà vu moment. I clearly remember Herbie introducing his delicate tune Butterfly, from the Headhunters album Thrust, released the previous year. Glasper was introducing a sweet ballad, You And Me, sung soulfully on Sunday by his saxophonist and fellow keyboardist Casey Benjamin.
There was another Hancock connection to the performance by Glasper and his band Experiment, and it was the absolute highlight of the show: A brilliant version of Herbie’s Tell Me A Bedtime Story, from the 1970 album Fat Albert Rotunda. Glasper’s version opened lyrically, literally so – with words sung by Benjamin. But then came an extraordinary outpouring of keyboard eloquence from the leader, a flowing, rippling solo lasting close to 15 minutes, full of beautiful twists and with many respectful stylistic nods to Hancock.
Glasper, who until that point (well over an hour into the concert) had been mainly content to stab at funky riffs, was making a statement: “This is what I can really do.” And it was marvellous.
There were other highlights, too: some wildly energetic, but quite articulate, solos on soprano and alto saxophones from Benjamin, and an engaging drum feature from Mark Colenburg. Working over a solid slow bass riff, Colenburg toyed teasingly with the tempo, racing ahead with the sticks, bouncing against the bass beat, pushing and pulling the rhythms all around the kit. I first heard this percussion technique many years ago from Trilok Gurtu (who was showing his expertise again with Jan Garbarek’s group at the Royal Festival Hall last weekend), and Colenburg also has the gift.
There were, of course, plenty of soulful crowd-pleasers in Glasper’s set, with Benjamin singing eloquently on songs including the new single Find You, and plenty of songs from the new Experiment album ArtScience.
There were some deep moments in this concert, but mostly Glasper and the band were just having good fun, and the audience were lapping it up.
Categories: Live review