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With the tracklist of Robert Glasper’s new album containing covers of the likes of Radiohead, Joni Mitchell and Kendrick Lamar, it seems fitting that he names the late American jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller as a big influence, a man whose composition style The New York Times said was “difficult to peg; like his piano playing, a bit of everything”.

Glasper opens proceedings with a brief explanation of the album to the small crowd gathered at Capitol Studios, calmly moving into a version of ‘I Don’t Care’. Piano lines weave in and out, merging into Radiohead’s ‘Reckoner’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Barangrill’. It’s a moment of calm soon interrupted by the 13 minutes of chaos aptly named ‘In Case You Forgot’.

The past year has brought African-American deaths at the hands of police to the forefront of media coverage worldwide. Glasper attempts to acknowledge and confront this injustice - he calls it “social reality” - through audio recordings and skits towards the end of the album. His version of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘I’m Dying of Thirst’ features Glasper’s six-year-old son and peers reading out the names of African-Americans who’ve fallen victim to police shootings. Touches like this are reminiscent of the conscious hip hop that Glasper has produced so well in the past with the likes of Mos Def.

With bands like Bad Bad Not Good doing such a good job of reinterpreting hip hop instrumentals as jazz standards, it’s easy to forget about the likes of Robert Glasper. But with a return to his earlier format of the acoustic jazz trio and a live studio recording it’s hard to ignore him - even harder when he’s on as great form as this.

by Now Then Manchester