Robert Glasper is a renowned, Grammy Award-winning pianist, composer and producer, who has developed a long-held reputation for relentless experimentation and iconoclastic genre mashing — his jazz trio, The Robert Glasper Trio featuring Glasper (piano), Chris Dave (drums) and Vincente Archer (bass) specialized in traditional-leaning acoustic jazz; The Robert Glasper Experiment, which features Glasper, Mark Colenburg (drummer), Casey Benjamin (saxophone, vocoder) and Derrick Hodge (bass) specializes in wildly genre-defying electronic music. And although largely inspired by neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz and gospel, Glasper has released interpretations and covers of the work of Nirvana, Radiohead, Soundgarden and David Bowie — all of which put Glasper at the forefront of a movement that’s actively pushing and playing with the boundaries of what contemporary jazz should sound like and actually be.
Both throughout his life and in the nearly 20 years since his death, more than than enough ink has been spilled on the life and music of Miles Davis but interestingly enough this year would have been the legendary and influential musician’s 90th birthday — and it’s been marked with the release of the Miles Ahead biopic, directed and staring Don Cheadle, and featuring a soundtrack that was co-produced by Glasper. Adding to the celebration Glapser produced Everything’s Beautiful, a tribute album to Miles Davis. The album which will be released through Sony/Columbia Records is comprised of re-imagined interpretations of Davis’ work featuring guest spots from Bilal, Illa J, Erykah Badu, Phonte, Hiatus Kaiyote, Laura Mvula, KING, Georgia Ann Muldrow, John Scofield, Ledisi and Stevie Wonder — and much like Red Hot + Fela, Everything’s Beautiful pairs some of Davis’ original recordings into a new collaborative soundscape with contemporary artists recording alongside it; in some way, it evokes the sensation that the artist’s ghost looms large over the proceedings. And in the case of Davis, a musician who relentlessly experimented with his art, the album seems as though it would be something that Davis would have been doing if he had been alive today.
“Ghetto Walkin’,” the latest single off Everything’s Beautiful is a shimmering and strutting song that’s largely based on an opening riff from a Miles Davis composition but altering the tempo slightly and pairing it with Bilal’s soulful falsetto croon. The song focuses on the current sociopolitical conversations and articles on race, class, education, institutionalized racism and the criminal justice system — and the forceful and inescapable weight of its impact on countless young Black people.
The recently released animated video follows a loosely drawn figure as they’re walking about their hood and it captures the stark bleakness of life in the poorest ghettos with a deep empathy and surreal, otherworldly beauty.