Guilty by Disassociation: Robert Glasper and José James Redefine the Jazz Sensibility
By: Brandon Roos
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Singer José James, in an effort to combat the labels musicians often shoulder, says that “once I realized that jazz singing is just something that I do and it’s just a label, it freed me as an artist to just write without any boundaries.” It’s a notion he took to heart on his latest, No Beginning No End, which shines because of the musicianship that accompanies his musical breadth.
Similarly, pianist Robert Glasper has been a vocal opponent to some of current jazz culture, critical of the importance of jazz standards in artist repertoire. As he told Jazz Wax in March, “The cats that we look up to in the jazz world didn’t do this. . . They always played something that was modern and up-to-date. That’s all I’m trying to do now, without losing what makes jazz special and personal to the listener.”
Both artists arrive in San Jose at the end of the week as part of Winter Fest 2013. They’re leading examples of jazz’s future, and a proper fit for a festival that looks to celebrate where jazz is headed.
While their opinions may signal a move away from the jazz idiom, their progressive notions have always been at the heart of jazz. As such, both James and Glasper have proven themselves true jazz musicians, even while they seem to be at odds with the seeming constraints of the art form.
“True jazz has always incorporated other idioms,” explains KSJS Program Director Brad Stone, who’s followed the careers of both Glasper and James. “The really innovative, progressive artists of today incorporate different genres into the music, whether it be other [types of] world music or hip-hop.”
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