Keyboardist, songwriter, bandleader and producer Robert Glasper formed R+R=Now to answer Nina Simone's message that an artist's duty is "to reflect the times." Glasper adds, "When you reflect what's going on in your time and respond to that, you can't not be relevant. So 'R' plus 'R' equals 'Now.' "
Including Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (trumpet), Terrace Martin (vocoder/synthesizer), Taylor McFerrin (beatbox/synthesizer), Derrick Hodge (bass) and Justin Tyson (drums), R+R=Now released their debut album Collagically Speaking in 2018 on Blue Note Records.
The just-released Live album was recorded in New York and Los Angeles during an expansive summer tour shortly after the album's release. Rare occasions when these busy musicians found some time to play have been captured for this collection.
They call their music a fusion of future funk and neo-soul, new West Coast vibe and psychedelic electronica, instrumental avant-garde hip-hop and classical influences all from some of today's top jazz talents. Their debut was recorded in single takes, allowing each musician's personality to shine through.
My first impression of R+R=Now was to discover six of the top musicians in modern jazz getting together to explore some vibes. That's a perfect combination for a live album, too.
You'll hear my favorite jam Friday on the New Cool. "Respond" features Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah's trumpet drenched in echoed effects soaring above a down-tempo but skittering drumbeat from Justin Tyson. It's a chill-out vibe, directed by Hodge's warm bass, with passionate and dramatic tones nearly dripping from the bandstand.
Glasper and McFerrin layer synthesizers and keyboards in the soundscape, with Martin contributing some soulful but wordless vocoder sounds to the stirring conclusion. A bit dark, perhaps, but these musicians are communicating some dark truths.
"Everyone in this band is a 6-foot-tall black guy who didn't come from an affluent background," Adjuah says. "In order for all of us to make it into that (recording studio) room together, we've had to go through some hell, fight for some things, build up a lot of armor to become who we are. We're all very aware of that, so anytime we get together, it's a celebration."
Celebrate R+R=Now Live and a world of modern jazz on The New Cool Friday night, and stay connected to KNKX. The promise of live jazz is out there, and we will all return to celebrate the music.
The New Cool airs Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.