Robert Glasper Experiment
On Black Radio, pianist Robert Glasper heads down the fraught path of hip-hop jazz and gets it right. The "experiment" spirit pervades the entire album, informing everything from song structures to production. Essential, too, are Chris Dave's crackling drum grooves, and the depth of tradition: Erykah Badu wriggling into the soul-jazz standard "Afro Blue," Lupe Fiasco shouting out Gil Scott-Heron and James Baldwin on "Always Shine." With music this smart and inviting, the implied diss of mainstream mediocrity doesn't feel like sour grapes; it feels like a blueprint forward.
• Photos: Random Notes