Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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Simon Corydon

Simon Corydon has 4 articles published.

LIVE REVIEW: The Robert Glasper Experiment, DR Koncerthuset, 28.03.2014

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It could easily have been a mission impossible for Robert Glasper to render the music from two of recent years’ most groundbreaking albums within crossover jazz, namely his Black Radio and the sophomore Black Radio 2. Featuring a who’s who of artists from American urban intelligentsia (Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Norah Jones to name but a few), the two records are predominantly vocal-based, making it not only an expensive but also unviable setup to take on tour.

Out of necessity – and intelligence – Glasper had therefore stripped it down to only include the instrumentation, but as the attentive listener would know, it is an equally as integral part of the Black Radio universe – if not more. With an original constellation of Chris Dave, Derrick Hodge and Casey Benjamin (all of whom have went on to pursue their individual careers) in addition to Glasper himself, the accumulated experience of The Experiment is equivalent to that of any jazz legend, and even the fact that only the two latter were present this night in Copenhagen, did not compromise the expressiveness.

Coming on stage as casual as only a cool cat can with a toothpick in his mouth and a tongue-in-cheek look, Glasper and his entourage – this night made up of Mark Colenburg, Burniss Earl Travis (filling in for Derrick Hodge, who was doing his own gig in D.C.) and aforementioned Benjamin – effortlessly proved that they could counterbalance the vocal polyphony of the albums, as the quartet almost spoke in unison. Musically, that is.

Thus the consecutive arrangements gave the illusion of an ongoing playlist as if it had been an album(!), but also necessitated the musicians to take breaks between one another, allowing for the showcase of each of them individually and in intelligent interplay with Glasper. Especially the symbiotic mutuality between Glasper’s floating finger technique and Colenburgs accentuated march drums worked as a testimony to the notion of ‘two minds, one thought’, exemplified in the intermezzo that led up to the powerful rendition of ‘Let It Ride’.

Yet vocoder virtuoso Casey Benjamin caught most of the attention as a man that literally lives and breathes music. Along with the rest of the band he gave a surprising cover of last year’s megahit ‘Get Lucky’, that avoided the pitfall of making just another jazzified version that many have already opted at, and instead remained faithful to the original by solely adding some minor chords, consequently revealing the poetry of postmodern pop music when stripped of its mask (or space helmet).

As can be seen, the structure of the night was more like that of a jazz than R&B-concert, with integrated solos and jams, letting the instruments take front stage. Being that it was Friday night, the dramaturgy could have called for a climax, but instead the audience were invited to participate in a multi-plot story with downbeats in the history of African-American music, that in addition to the abovementioned also included a reinterpretation of Bill Wither’s classic ‘Lovely Day’, the compulsory Dilla tribute that started out in Billie Holiday’s ‘Body and Soul’ and took turns to ‘Smell’s Like Teen Spirit’ before a tour de force performance of The Experiment’s own breakthrough hit ‘All Matter’ as encore.

In many ways also a mission impossible, as the Danish crowd supposedly would know more of the mainstream Robert Glasper than the jazzy discography of his, but instead of choosing the ‘easy’ option to play the Black Radio-repertoire back to back, he and his Experiment employed the challenging tactic of inviting the audience in by the backdoor to let them perceive the music from the inside out rather than the opposite – as one would usually do when listening to the radio. For the same reason, the unproportionally high degree of white noise in Koncerthuset did not interfere with the Black Radio, as it had its own frequency this night.

ARTICLE: Robert Glasper, not just the man behind the keys

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It’s practically almost easier to mention who Robert Glasper has not worked with. Coming from a jazz background, there is off course all of those that would ring a bell in those circles, but what might come as a surprise to the average listener is that Glasper also has collaborated with a broad segment of contemporary urban and pop artists, ranging from The Roots to Solange and Q-tip.

Never to self-important to degrade either dimension, the pianist instead forged the two into one of last year’s most remarkable records, the critically acclaimed Black Radio, and is now ready with its follow-up, logically named Black Radio 2, that might tap into an even broader audience, potentially giving Glasper the recognition he rightfully deserves.

The right album at the right time

Fed up with the lack of new thinking within the jazz community, pianist Robert Glasper and his Experiment set out with the relatively humble ambition to stir things up a little. The outcome – ‘Black Radio’ – went far beyond that, literally inscribing itself into American music history by taking home a Grammy for Best R&B Album in 2012. The conditions of the time were however also favourable as renowned trumpeter Nicholas Payton had sparkled his campaign to re-naturalise jazz music among other genres under the umbrella-term Black American Music (usually abbreviated as BAM).

Glasper nevertheless dissociated himself from this conception, diplomatically rejecting it; “I just don’t think to call it Black American Music is the way to go, because there’s a whole lot of black American music under that umbrella, and they all have names.” More so, Glasper in his own right, involuntarily came to forefront a new movement among jazz musicians, and Black Radio also marked itself as the principal work among a wave of similar projects from contemporary, coming-of-age jazz acts such as ERIMAJ, Gizmo, Lakecia Benjamin and NEXT Collective, all of whom were rounded by the popularity of urban music during the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Creativity emancipated

With most of its tracks being either covers or do-overs, much more than the lyrical content, the true innovation of Black Radio was the musical mastership of The Experiment. From Glasper’s floating finger technique and Derrick Hodge’s empathized bass play, to the adaptively march-infused drums of Chris Dave, all rounded of by jack-of-all-trade Casey Benjamin’s signature vocoder and whatnots.

That’s not to talk about what the prime roster of artists from the urban intelligentsia brings to the table; Stokley Williams breezily everting his soul on ‘Why Do We Try’, an unusually underplayed version of Bilal on David Bowie’s ‘Letter To Hermione’ and Erykah Badu’s stylish take on jazz standard ‘Afro Blue’.

The fact that the majority of the album was recorded through intense jam session over the course of 4 days, is only to be heard in how the decades of accumulated experience assembled in the studio lets their informed impulses lead the way, yet never goes astray down otherwise seductive pitfalls of irrelevance; every solo is appropriate, every improvisation on point.

A co-creational effort

Whether it was the Grammy nomination that encouraged the Experiment to further go down the R&B-path is uncertain, yet that is however what they did on their follow up, Black Radio 2, being released this week. To compensate, almost all of the material on the new record is original content, co-creatively conjured through the Experiment’s tight arrangements as the musical backdrop, setting the perfect scene for each of the featured artists’ unfolding.

A co-creational project in all regards, several of those (that include Common, Emeli Sandé and Jill Scott, among others) are participating by request from their fans, thus showcasing the mastermind of Robert Glasper not only as a composer and producer but also as a marketeer – but most of all an artist, way ahead of his time.

ARTICLE: Haim – The days are long…..

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Sharing the chevelure and initial letters with Hanson, it should be obvious to draw a comparison between the boy band darlings of the 90’s and girl group Haim. Yet, there is an originality of difference between the two. Where Hanson obliged to the commercial conventions of popular music, Haim rather makes a virtue out of retaining their own original sound.

The signature elements of tom-tom drum fills, conspicuous guitar riffs and middle sister Danielle’s timeless vocal, the genealogy of which shows traces of Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), Tracey Thorn (Everything But The Girl) and Alanis Morrisette, indicates that the sisters respectfully recognize their influences, yet is also given the postmodern privilege of patterning the puzzle in new ways, most obvious in the at times unfavourable overtones of subsequent overdubbing.

Exactly the ratio between electronic and acoustic elements influences their sound for better or worse. Most recent single ‘The Wire’ serves to illustrate; if one listens to the more than a year old demo of the song on YouTube, you will hear a much more stripped down and less mastered version of the track than the official single released about a month ago. Though it might be put down to their choice of record label, that of international conglomerate Universal, the excessive postproduction appears a little redundant taking the sisters’ – all of whom are proficient on more than one instrument – musical mastery into consideration.

Growing up in a hypermusical family in San Fernando Valley, a place mostly known for its favourable weather conditions as well as being home to the adult industry, the girls’ talent is nature-given. Copenhagen concertgoers got more than a glimpse of this genetic coherence at the group’s August gig at Lille Vega, where the three sisters sang, played and charmed their way into the hearts of the crowd. Also the attendants got to have experience big sister Este’s (in)famous ‘bassface’ firsthand, the scapegoat of many a meme and gif, that in inscrutable ways probably has helped the group reach an even greater and perhaps unlikely audience.

With their debut album released today it seems like the perfect time after names like Twin Shadow, Kindness and Blood Orange have primed the ground and forefronted the turn towards the retro-sound of the late 70’s and 80’s. Likewise these acts, Haim represents a turn away from the pompous and perfectionism surrounding many artists on the contemporary music scene with their sympathetic and down-to earth attitude. A dimension in which they could actually resemble the Hanson-brothers.

LIVE REVIEW: Haim | Lille Vega, Copenhagen, 07.08.2013

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As an ignorant European, my frame of reference delimits my first associations of San Fernando Valley to be that of its reputation as a place of eternal sunshine as well as the epicentre of the adult industry. However, tonight’s concert at Lille Vega, band of sisters Haim proved that there’s (much) more to it than just my inferior connotations.

Yet before Haim took to the stage, support act, with the assonantal name Ice Cream Cathedral, took on the job of priming the already enthusiastic crowd, delivering the shoegazed space pop that has become their trademark and earned them recognition from an array of critics as well as regulars to the Danish indie scene. However thankful the task, the Copenhagen trio made a respectable effort and surely gained even more followers this night with their original fusion of the ethereal Neo Italo that has scored many an art-house feature in recent years and the heritage of legends such as My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins.

VIEW LIVE PHOTOS: ICE CREAM CATHEDRAL

Thus elevated the audience were more than ready to take on Haim. Making their way to the stage to the chorus of Jay-Z’s modern classic ’99 Problems’ (“If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you son/I’ve got 99 problems but a b**** ain’t one”), the sisters unpompously suggested that they weren’t too blame for any unfulfilled intentions to have a good night. One could have feared that it would actually have been the case, as rumour had it that two of the three sisters suffered from a cold and were prescribed to penicillin, yet it wasn’t to be seen – nor heard.

On the contrary, the sisters stroke the first chord with genetic accuracy and from there lead the listeners on to a tour de force into their musical versatility and charming personalities. Especially big sister Este proved to be of a talkative nature and had more than a few bantering inquiries for the audience – “Would anyone like to take me swimming in the morning?”. While she chatted her way into the hearts of the crowd, front vocalist Danielle barely spoke a word but won their respect through her gifted guitar play (that has earned her touring gigs with the likes of Julian Casablancas and Cee-Lo), and vocals comparable to Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl) or Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), clearly shining through on tracks such as “Honey & I” and “Go Slow”.

Yet, their obvious links to those vocal bigwigs of yesteryear only accounts for a minor part of the girls’ portfolio. Throughout a relatively short but dense set of 40 minutes, courageously started off with Dirty Diana-esque track “Better Off”, they showcased their naturally moderate back catalogue with an unspoiled energy often unseen in more established acts, before intelligently closing down with their biggest hit to date, ‘Forever’, in a vigorous version representative of the sound of theirs and the night in general.

Witnessing such artistry easily leaves you out of breath, which however allowed me to bike home from the concert at a slower pace, consequently wondering whether the sound of fireworks was to be attributed to the nightly celebration of Eid ul-Fitr or the resonance of an indeed breath taking concert.

VIEW LIVE PHOTOS: HAIM

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