Miles Davis and Robert Glasper — Everything’s Beautiful (Summer of 2016)
By the time this project was released, I was graduating high school. From the drowsy days of the hazy springtime rain transitioning to the sight of the sun shining through the dispersing clouds, I became obsessed with collecting as many records as the threshold of my desktop could handle. I became keen on eyewitnessing any update on the latest music releases, through both digital platforms and digging through filled crates of old and polished records in the nearest Rolling Stones shop I could find. Around May of 2016, this project appeared in the enclave.
Robert Glasper had established himself a notable icon in the revolving shift Hip Hop and R&B music was heading towards. His musical impetus to this date, Black Radio by the Robert Glasper Experiment group, allowed his presence to percolate through the background of many forefronting projects beyond the year 2012. One of his major responsibilities included his hand in shaping the now infamous To Pimp a Butterfly album by Kendrick Lamar (he produced the sound to These Walls). Glasper is one of the leading figures reinventing the neo-soul and jazz genre with textures culled from modern Hip Hop and other soul-crafting movements occurring to this day. Unlike the perks of the neo-soul group, The Internet, whose sound is more based on experimental grooves and esoteric sounding implementations, Glasper takes familiarity and morphs it into his own mantra. Starting out as a Jazz pianist, the connections he built while attending the New School University in Manhattan led him to develop and claim his own mellow, spiritually colored sounds of conventional Jazz instrumentation. Black Radio was a successful attribute that let Glasper realize his own commercial talents, and lent him access to working with such artists as Bilal, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, and Erykah Badu.
In May of 2016, he released his single with Erykah Badu entitled Maiysha (So Long). By the time this single was released, I had just started my first weekend as a lifeguard for a very quiescent and humble neighborhood pool. I had to rush right before it was time to let the impatient pool dwellers into their familiar abode. Looking towards the pool while slickly letting one earbud sink into my left ear, the track perfectly synchronized with the fresh Summer winds breezing through and sunshine radiating down on the natural scenery. The next weekend occurred, and the whole album was released.
The album itself is just a collection of renditions of Miles Davis’ less renowned works but added by the pastiche of Glasper’s creativity and the talented ensemble of modern soul artists such as Illa J, Hiatus Kaiyote, and the old school martyr, Stevie Wonder. The opening track, Talking Shit, opens with Davis’ recorded voice during one of his improvisational sessions, sounding just has hoarse and raspy as fans of him would recognize him to sound so. The track slowly stampedes into hushed drum playing as melodic chords would add to the peacefully droning track. Each song resonates a tranquil submission to airy instrumentation and heartfelt poetic verses. Although the tracks here range differently in tempo, sound, texture, and message, they all amalgamate to something that could be only listened to during a certain season or state of mind. That’s what Everything’s Beautiful did for my Summer during that year.
Having to open the pool up and looking at the bustling street in my direct eyesight, while witnessing the passing clouds and swiveling trees in my peripheral view, this album serenely coincided with those moments. Summertime for a late adolescent is usually conducted of hazy sit outs with friends or nights filled with petulant acting around your comforting tribe. One of the first tracks that come into mind as I recall this project are tracks such as Right on Brotha featuring Stevie Wonder, and They Can’t Hold Me Down, featuring Illa J. They Can’t Hold Me Down has a soft and patient aura composed with sparse chords and simple drum pelting behind Illa J’s mind-whirling wordplay. The track Right on Brotha is a typical five-minute demonstration of full-blooded talent from infamous club leader DJ Spinna, Chicago artist Chris Rob, and Funk and Jazz maestro Stevie Wonder. The track includes step-beat tempo with space-inducing brass instrumentation and groovy chords.
Watching the day pass by from the full vibrancy of daylight to the tranquil picture of the sun setting near the evening time, the swimming pool would be locked up and forgotten throughout the nights spent over a friend’s home, fighting and gossiping throughout the season. Everything’s Beautiful isn’t one of Glasper’s most notable works, but will always return with the upcoming Summer seasons as an essential listen for lazy strolling near the shores of Lake Shore, or nights spent under the luminescent city nights with loved ones.