First came the visuals and DJ, then drummer Mark Colenburg, quickly followed on stage by Casey Benjamin, alto sax, and Burniss Travis II, bass. This combination could, in itself, represent a jazz/hip hop collaboration to tempt the predominantly young audience out to London's Koko on a Monday night. Next came Mike Severson, electric guitar and finally Grammy-winning jazz pianist, Robert Glasper. Together this five-piece electric band, The Robert Glasper Experiment, took us on a journey through different genres, beginning with hip hop and ending with disco, hitting on aspects of rock, jazz and psychedelia inbetween.
In this context, the abrupt changes of mood and tempo were appropriate. There was so much personality on stage that it was difficult to know where to focus. The group's roots grounded in contemporary jazz, they included plenty of solos to direct the attention. Benjamin's sax in particular had plenty to say. He made the notes float sweetly from under the brim of his hat or scream like a slaughtered lamb. The Experiment are all high-school buddies and with that connection comes trust. And, from that trust, freedom is born, exemplified by improvised versions of tracks like 'Find You', from new album ArtScience, which became far more expansive and spacy than the recorded versions.
When the audience reacts to each genre as if it were their favourite, you know you've made jazz cool again.
– Tina Blower