Listening to Robert Glasper's albums is a good way to appreciate the Brooklyn-based pianist's incredible talent for performing and composing. An even better way is to catch one of his live performances, such as last night's concert at the 360-seat Berlind Theatre, located on the campus of Princeton University.
Glasper's trio (with bassist Vicente Archer and new drummer Chris Dave) performed as a single organism, deftly playing off each other over the course of their set. While Archer is a solid (although not spectacular) bassist, the stars of the show were Glasper and Dave, whose instrumental prowess cannot be doubted.
Glasper, who split the set fairly evenly between his two Blue Note albums (2005's Canvas and this year's In My Element), showcased both his calm, meditative side and his bold, adventurous side. He opened the set with a new number entitled "No Worries," which would be a welcome addition to his next release. Some of the other highlights were "G&B" and the Herbie Hancock/Radiohead cover of "Maiden Voyage/Everything in Its Right Place" from In My Element and "North Portland" and "Enoch's Meditation" from Canvas.
There were a few moments of humor during the performance, although the seemingly uptight audience seemed more engaged by Glasper's playing than his talking. As with his albums, he made use of pre-recorded sound clips to augment some of his music. In this case, a New Age-ish synthesizer effect and a sermon/speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made appearances via an iPod Glasper controlled.
The band was coaxed by the appreciative (albeit restrained) audience into performing one encore, a spirited Thelonious Monk cover that may have been the highlight of the set. After the show, Glasper made himself available to sign copies of In My Element (conveniently for sale in the gift shop), of which I am now a proud owner.