Robert Glasper is a jazz man and friend to many of the best rappers, hip-hoppers and soul singers around today.

The latter fact is integral to his latest project which is made up of collaborations with everyone from recent New Zealand visitor Erykah Badu and R&B fusion diva Me'Shell Ndegeocello to chaps like the golden-voiced Bilal and Brooklyn rapper Mos Def.

It's powerfully produced, but there is this nagging feeling that some of it sounds more like it's from the 90s era of acid jazz and nu jazz than now.

And, if anything, you want the album to be more spacey, atmospheric and a little freaky, but it is often too content to lope along in the background.


The exceptions include the last track, a simmering and fruity vocoder cover version of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, and the jittery jazz and hard-out electronic gospel soul of Why Do We Try?.

And then there's Badu sounding as snoozy as ever, in her beautifully seductive way, on the wistful Afro Blue, the combination of Glasper's solid yet whimsical playing and Bilal's voice makes Always Shine soar, and it's Mos Def's starring turn on the title track, which goes from fractured and funky to creepy and eerie, where the potential of this project is fully realised.

Black Radio is not so much an experiment, more a deep, smooth mooch around in the realm of soul jazz and hip-hop.

Stars: 3/5
Verdict: Jazz pianist branches out with mixed results
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