People, Places and Things: An Interview with Band Leader, Jazz Pianist Robert Glasper

Special to Informer | 4/2/2012, 3:08 p.m.

Washington Informer: Your Mother, Kim Glasper, sang professionally. Can you tell me one thing she taught you about the business that you still use in your career today?

Robert Glasper: I have my Mother's personality [laughs]. She was always one of those people that people liked, and when people like you that goes far beyond your instrument. There are lot of great musicians out there, doesn't mean they're gonna get a call. So a lot of times, they won't call you, because you're, you know? A messed up kind of person, or just not a good person to hang out with. You got to go on the road with somebody and be on the road with them for three months, kinda want to have someone on the road that you can actually tolerate [laughs]. So I got that from her. Everyone loved her; she was everyone's favorite person. That was just something I saw, she didn't have to say anything, and I guess she taught me by example. I think when people like you, that opens up a lot of doors. Even if you're not a good musician. If you're mediocre, but people really like you [laughs] you can go further than somebody that's really good on their instrument that people don't like. My whole philosophy is - I've met Stevie Wonder and I've met Herbie (Hancock) and they were both amazingly cool - so anybody on Earth can be cool as far as I'm concerned [laughs].

Washington Informer: You come from a "traditional" jazz trio format; you're now incorporating soul, hip-hop and rock into your music. Does this just reflect the evolution of your sound or was it planned?

Robert Glasper: This is definitely the natural evolution of my sound. This is actually something I've been holding back [laughs], this has always been a part of my sound, even on my very first record. I have a record on Fresh Sound label, a small label from Spain. I did a record in 2002 and I have some hip-hop stuff on there and some kinda soul, more soulful vibe stuff and Bilal is on there. So once I got signed to Blue Note, I wanted to be taken seriously as a jazz pianist. So I purposefully made my first few records more straight up jazz, at least my way straight up jazz, so I can get that respect that I want as a musician. As a young black pianist, people are very quick to label you as a "hip hop" piano player. You don't get, those credentials of, being mentioned with people like Brad Mehldau, or Jason Moran, or, you know, those kind of cats when you're young, coming up, so I definitely wanted to make sure that I was able to make that statement first. Then go abroad and do what I do, do other stuff that I wanted to do. I think people respect it more, you know?

Washington Informer: The respect of your peers, is that something that's important to you?