×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Robert Glasper Validates Playboy Jazz Fest’s Mission Statement

Blue Note recording artist to share bill with Herbie Hancock, George Duke and Phil Woods

When the middle of June comes a-knocking in Los Angeles, you know that it’s time for the Playboy Jazz Festival, the annual 15 1/2-hour outdoor music party for multiple acts and more than 17,000 partygoers at Hollywood Bowl (June 15-16). And with it comes the usual debate over whether this should be called a jazz festival anymore – at least in the sense of the bebop-descended, acoustical-instrument-driven definition that purists still use.

Who better to ask about this than one of the artists in the weekend’s lineup, keyboardist Robert Glasper, who has said some provocative things about the present state of jazz. Over the phone on Tuesday, I read Glasper a list of the performers who will appear on the bill with him on Saturday– eclectic, genre-jumping pairings like George Duke and Jeffrey Osborne, Naturally 7 and Herbie Hancock, Angelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela, Poncho Sanchez’s Latin Jazz Band with guest James Carter, Grace Kelly and Phil Woods, and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band with Lee Ritenour.

“Oh wow, great!” he exclaimed. “You can call that a jazz festival. I’ve been to a lot of ‘jazz’ festivals where there is no jazz. If you play a festival outside, it’s called jazz. This sounds like a jazz festival to me.”

Glasper’s group, the Robert Glasper Experiment, has been busy fusing together idioms without regard to boundaries – attracting controversy from the usual sources and also much attention and sales for his latest Blue Note album, “Black Radio.” He just finished a sequel, “Black Radio, Vol. 2,” which will be out in September.

While Glasper, 35, takes many of his cues from Hancock (“He is one of the people who never had chains musically; he opened the door for persons like me.”), he also cites bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding and trumpeter Christian Scott, both Playboy Jazz Fest alums, as musicians who are trying to move jazz forward. “Those two and myself are the ones doing it in my generation on a bigger scale,” he says. “They have a big platform to jump off of, and they do it.”

As for what he will do during his own set at the Playboy, Glasper says, “I have no idea. I never know what I’m going to play until five minutes until I walk out onto the stage.

“I’m always checking out the crowd and I always change in the middle of the set,” he adds. “Even five minutes into the set, we do the first two songs and read the crowd and go from there.”

More Music

  • Guy Moot

    Is Sony/ATV’s Guy Moot Headed for Top Job at Warner/Chappell?

    Ever since Jon Platt announced in September that he will be stepping down from his post at the helm of Warner/Chappell Publishing to take the top job at Sony/ATV when Martin Bandier’s contract is up at the end of March, speculation has been rife about who will take over for him. One name has been [...]

  • (L to R) MAHERSHALA ALI and

    Scores from 'Green Book,' 'Solo,' Others Disqualified from Oscar Race (EXCLUSIVE)

    First-round voting is underway for Oscar’s Original Song and Original Score categories, but Academy music-branch voters are discovering that four talked-about scores are missing from the eligibility list. Music for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “Green Book,” “Mandy” and “The Other Side of the Wind” has been disqualified for various reasons, Variety has learned. More [...]

  • Marcus Mumford of the band Mumford

    Concert Review: Mumford & Sons Ride 'Delta' During U.S. Tour Opener in Philly

    Mumford & Sons have come a long way from their raw and rustic roots to have happily come no way at all.  Even though the British quartet smoothed and softened elements of the rough, intimate folk of their 2007 origin story to include flickering arena-rock guitars (on 2015’s “Wilder Mind”) and windy synths (2018’s “Delta”), [...]

  • The King Eric Clapton A Life

    Rashida Jones, Lili Zanuck Talk Grammy Nominations and the Music-Documentary Gold Rush

    Nothing takes you back to time and a place like the music of a particular era. That’s one big reason why music documentaries are flourishing at a time of enormous demand for high-end docu productions. This year’s five Grammy Award nominees for best music film reflect the appetite for stories about renowned and beloved musical figures, [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Varèse Sarabande's Top 10 Sellers List Led by 'Ghost,' 'T2,' 'Star Wars' Albums

    John Carpenter’s “Halloween” music? A “Star Wars” compendium? It’s no shock to see these show up on a list of soundtrack label Varèse Sarabande’s historical 10 biggest selling albums. More surprising? Non-genre soundtracks like “Rudy” and “The Man from Snowy River,” which film music fans snatched up in numbers matching some of the more obvious [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content