Archives for posts with tag: Sade

Album Review: Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment, 2012

Robert Glasper is a jazz pianist who, with this outing, experiments with the fusion of jazz, hip-hop, and R&B. The experimentation in itself is not groundbreaking but the outcome is brilliant. Artists like Guru and Q-Tip have played in this space for some time but the freshness that Glasper brings is grounded in his piano accompaniments and tastefully chosen collaborations.

If rain were able to play the piano, it would sound like Robert Glasper. His style is unique, his fingers falling in succession on the keys, playing melodies in arpeggio. Listen to “Downtime” from his previous release, Double Booked, for a nice showcase of his style.

It’s that style that subtly forms a latticework of piano sounds around the vastly different and joyful tracks on Black Radio.¬†Even before hearing the album, I was giddy to see this list of collaborators: Erykah Badu, Chrisette Michelle, Bilal, Mos Def, KING, and Ledisi all in one place!

The tracks themselves offer a range of style and even genre that keeps the record fresh on every listen. “Afro Blue” is classic Badu. “Move Love,” with KING, is a sublime groove rightfully featuring the beautiful vocals of that US-based trio. Perhaps the surprise of the lot is “Cherish the Day” a cover of a Sade song performed by Glasper and Lalah Hathaway. As a discerning Sade fan, I was skeptical. But this version retains the sparseness of Sade’s original while enhancing it tastefully with Hathaway’s take on the vocals and Glasper’s arrangement.

The one disappointment is the title track, which has moments of niceness but struggles to find a comfortable pairing of Mos Def’s rapping style with Glasper’s accompaniment. The final track, a lengthy cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is also hit and miss. Nirvana’s charms never resonated with me personally so this final criticism may more be my own bias then a comment on the track. It is admittedly an original take where Glasper pulls off an extended use of a vocoder. For this, he gets points for channelling Herbie Hancock.

Overall, this is a precious collection of well thought-through collaborations, original musicianship, and great melodies. It is substantial, which for a fusion project, is saying something.

(at press, this album is pending release on Feb 28, 2012)

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Concert Review: Sade, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, June 28 2011

sade_loveisfound

Sade is a group with unparalleled longevity and unrelenting quality. Since their recording debut with 1984’s Diamond Life, this band has released only 5 studio albums. While not prolific, they are one of the most musically discerning groups in contemporary music.

It was this reputation that drew me to their 2011 concert at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, an indoor arena venue. What they delivered that summer night was essential Sade. Fittingly centred around lead singer Sade Adu, the show opened with “Soldier of Love” from their most recent album. Adu emerged from a beam of white light shone from under the stage. With each riff of the opening snare drum and guitar, she took the steps one by one, arriving on stage to a frenzy.

The catalogue of familiar songs were nostalgically received, perfectly performed, and refreshingly accompanied by a video presentation that blended wonderfully with the live action on stage. The most striking use of the video screen was for the new song, “Love is Found,” from The Ultimate Collection (2011). A silhouetted Adu and male figure play out a courtship on screen with mesmerizingly original choreography. Meanwhile, in the foreground, silhouetted by the backlit video screen, the real Sade mimics the video moves and performs the song. The band are black shadows, almost unreal.

Sade’s guitarist and saxophonest, Stuart Matthewman, is the unsung musical soulmate to Adu’s diva persona. Throughout their recording history, Matthewman’s saxophone defined the smooth, easy-going flow to their music. It is hard to think of any popular music group whose sound is so distinctly yet subtely defined by a saxophone. Then, with Lovers Rock and again with Soldier of Love, Matthewman’s use of a hard edged distorted guitar breathed a new aural aesthetic into their work. Suddenly, Sade was ‘edgy’ while still being the smoothest sound around.

The beautiful thing about Sade live is that all this musicianship and the iconic vocals are perfectly reproduced in high fidelity. Their sound is simple and lends itself to a high quality performance. Like their recorded work, the calibre of Sade’s live performance is unparalleled.

Setlist:

1. Soldier of Love; 2. Your Love is King; 3. Skin; 4. Kiss of Life; 5. Love is Found; 6. In Another Time; 7. Smooth Operator; 8. Jezebel; 9. Bring Me Home; 10. Is It a Crime; 11. Love is Stronger Than Pride; 12. All About Our Love; 13. Paradise / Nothing Can Come Between Us; 14. Morning Bird; 15. King of Sorrow; 16. The Sweetest Taboo; 17. The Moon and the Sky; 18. Pearls; 19. No Ordinary Love; 20. By Your Side; 21. Cherish the Day (Encore)