“Whenever I listen to Robert Glasper, I, too, feel the imprint of pianist Ahmad Jamal. From the percussive nature of their play to the succinct and expedient style in which they showcase each and every note, there is a genuine interconnectivity between the two, constructed in sound. If hip-hop samples Jamal in the present, surely they will be doing so with Glasper in the future. Some, in fact, have already tried—rather remarkably, I might add.
In introducing Glasper to individuals of my own twentysomething enclave, I almost instinctively turn to his memorable hip-hop reconstruction piece, the eponymous “J Dillalude.” Stringing together a melody of some of the producer’s finest compositions, I consider this to be yet another significant bridge between hip-hop and jazz.
Today, however, I’ve found another from the Glasper repertoire to be in heavy rotation. It speaks to a lineage that connects Ahmad Jamal to Thelonious Monk and De La Soul shortly thereafter. The convergence of these three is “Think of One.”
In theory, this is Glasper’s take on the Monk composition of the same name. Monk originally recorded the tune in 1953 with the assistance of Julius Watkins, Sonny Rollins, Percy Heath, and Willie Jones. Despite such a remarkable lineup, “Think of One” remains a widely overlooked record; an unfortunate reality as it marks one of the earliest instances of Monk playing the role of band leader. Regardless, the record is another exhibition of Monk’s genius…”
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“On a day in which we formally welcome autumn, we too celebrate the birth of John Coltrane. The symbolism of it all can be heard rather than seen. That is why, today, I listen to Ballads.
Autumn has a distinctive feel. While urban meteorologists Tony! Toni! Toné! once reported that it never rains in Southern California, those of us located in more temperate climates recognize that this is the season that hosts a combination of grey skies and heavy precipitation. Only exacerbating this dismissal forecast is the inevitable darkness that will steadily begin to swallow the waning moments of summer. For this reason, our collective mood will begin to shift accordance with the season. Many would argue that melancholy is best prescribed to adequately define our not-so-sunny dispositions during this time of year. And as such, autumn’s score is composed with a somber tone and delicate rhythm.
As I look outside of my window on a day such as this, I hear Coltrane’s Ballads. It’s difficult for many to properly place it. Amongst the myriad other projects included in the Coltrane catalog, this album does not that dominate feature. It does not present the framework for a new compositional paradigm like Giant Steps, nor does it engage in the experimental recklessness of Om. This understanding, however, should not be taken as a shot at the album, but to instead, present it for what it is. Ballads a significance that deserves more praise than it has received. It’s thematic masterpiece, capturing variations on a sentimental mood. It does so in a manner that is never trite and surprisingly underplayed. It maintains a certain course, one from which it never strays. This is heard immediately on the opening record, “Say It (Over And Over Again).” Beginning with a subtle polyphonic texture, a substantially pronounced Coltrane emits a sound that borders on lethargic. Everything seems to be stressed and drawn out for just a moment longer. Its emotional pull does not lean towards sadness, but instead a mellowed composure. This is the type of music that lends itself well to a rainy afternoon in September…”
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For The Roy Ayers Project