Robert Glasper on Tuesday continued his monthlong 2022 Blue Note New York residency with his first of four nights featuring his longtime collaborator Lalah Hathaway. Of course, that’s just what was announced ahead of time. As is custom during the eclectic jazz pianist’s annual takeover of the famed Greenwich Village haunt, Tuesday night’s late show featured plenty of surprises beyond the billed appearance by the multiple Grammy Award-winning R&B singer.
While Glasper keeps a shortlist of world-class musicians to fill out his revolving band roster, it wasn’t clear who exactly would be in the band until they ambled down the Blue Note stairs and past a sold-out crowd on their way to the stage.
On this night, the keyboardist would be joined by talented drummer Justin Tyson, bassist Marcus Travis (who local jazz fans may have caught backing Maurice “MoBetta” Brown this past Saturday in Brooklyn), and revered guitarist Isaiah Sharkey, whose prodigious resume includes regular sideman work with the likes of Glasper, D’Angelo, and John Mayer in addition to a solo project that has netted him headlining Blue Note stints of his own.
This “Robtoberfest” configuration had a decidedly relaxed, “living room” vibe. From the band remaining seated throughout much of the show to Robert’s actual family repeatedly catching his attention with humorous quips from their seats at stage left, that level of comfort seemed to permeate the performance on every level.
Glasper and company informed the crowd that they were planning to warm up the stage for Lalah before easing in with a stream-of-conscious improvisation featuring snippets of a wide range of tunes, from Radiohead‘s “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box” (an appropriate song for a packed-out Blue Note) to Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to Phil Collins‘s “In The Air Tonight”.
“I’m taking my time with it, lemme find something,” Glasper joked when a man in the crowd urged him to pick a direction. “By the way,” he added, gesturing to the heckler to his left, “the loud-ass section over here is my f—ing dad.”
Once their wandering creativity was sufficiently sated, Glasper welcomed Hathaway to the stage, fresh off an incoming flight from Australia. Between Robert’s catalog, Lalah’s repertoire, and the acclaimed music they have created together, the options for where to start were vast. Instead, they reached outside their own boxes to begin the collaboration with Sade‘s Love Deluxe classic “Cherish the Day”—just as the calendar was about to flip to October 26th, 2022, the album’s 30th birthday.
Later, a sublime, extended rendition of “Jesus Children”—the reimagined Stevie Wonder cover that earned Glasper, Hathaway, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner a Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance in 2015—featured spoken word poet Amir Sulaiman, a familiar voice from Black Radio III, joining in for an emotionally fraught yet powerful segment.
When they finished the song, the older Glasper offered some further familial banter from the audience. After leaning in to hear his dad, Robert told the crowd, “Lalah and I have a Grammy together for that one, and he wanted to let you know that he has the Grammy at his house.”
As time ran out, Robert Glasper welcomed out one more surprised guest, fellow keyboard/organ master Cory Henry, to lend his hand on a rendition of Lalah Hathaway’s “Lean on Me”. As the incredible daughter of late soul legend Donny Hathaway skatted away and Henry layered in measured flourishes on the keys, Robert mostly seemed content to kick back, bounce along to the music, and enjoy this confluence of revered collaborators, surprise visitors, and family atmosphere. Just another day on the job for Robert Glasper at the Blue Note…
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Henry and Hathaway are the latest on a long list of recent guests during Glasper’s monthlong Blue Note residency. Bilal and STOUT also joined in on Thursday’s show, and the 2022 run has already attracted the likes of Miguel, Chris Rock, Jeff Ross, Lena Waithe, Gary Douran, Hannibal Buress, D Smoke, Dave Chappelle, and more since it kicked off on October 4th. Glasper has plenty more high-profile collaborators set to join him at Blue Note throughout the rest of his Robtober residency including Thundercat, Terrace Martin, Isaiah Sharkey, Alex Isley, Pino Palladino, yasiin bey, and more.
Glasper’s four-night, eight-show week with Lalah Hathaway continues nightly through Friday, October 28th. For a complete list of upcoming Robert Glasper Blue Note New York residency dates, head here.
Below, check out a gallery of photos from Tuesday night’s show featuring Lalah Hathaway, Cory Henry, and more via Dervon Dixon.