Robert Glasper Experiment | The Troubadour | 1/24/14

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If you are visiting Los Angeles, and music is your thing, hitting up a show at the Troubadour  (or another iconic performance venue) should be on your list of things to do. If you are a Los Angeles resident, and you haven’t been to the Troubadour … shame on you. I kid … kind of.

With a maximum capacity of 400,  the Troubadour has hosted music royalty like Elton John, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses, Radiohead, Prince, Nine Inch Nails, and the list goes on. Hell, even John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were kicked out of the club for heckling the Smothers Brothers back in the 70s. Needless to say, the tiny, iconic venue has a lot of history. As soon as I heard that The Robert Glasper Experiment was playing a gig there the Friday before the 2014 Grammy Awards, I immediately purchased a ticket.

Now, I was lucky enough to catch his performance at the Roxy in 2013, so I knew that it was a going to be a show filled with musicianship (and a special guest or two) that couldn’t be missed. That show at the Roxy was amazing, and my only regret was that I didn’t have a camera good enough to take pictures in a low lighted setting. That experience made me invest in a new camera that could.

Armed with a capable camera (you can check out some of my concert pics at my Instagram account [@Methodman13]), I got to the Troubadour with the hopes of staking out some prime real estate for the show, only to be told by the bouncers that I couldn’t’ bring my pocket sized, point and shoot camera into the venue. I could respect the policy for the show as they apparently were filming the evening for Robert’s forthcoming documentary titled “Of Dreams To Come: Robert Glasper” [To learn more about that project, head over to the website www.ofdreamstocome.com for more info]. Of course, the first thing I noticed when I got inside were people who had snuck their cameras into the venue, using the their flash no less. A bit of a bummer, as I literally had front row “seats”; but I learned that if I’m ever asked if I have a camera on my person, I am going to say, “No.” Little white lies never killed anybody, right?

I wasn’t going to let my not being able to bring the camera into the venue put a damper on the evening, and apparently the music gods saw fit to bless me with some great music karma. Let’s see ..

1. For the first time … ever … a group of three taller gentlemen, standing at least 6 feet tall each, offered to move around to give me an unobstructed view of the stage. Yeah, I’m short, and yeah, I totally appreciated that. It was a very cool gesture.

2. As expected, the music was beyond amazing, and special guests like Javier StarksAlgebra Blessett (who sang “Calls”), Wayne Brady (who covered an amazing version of Coldplay’s “Yellow”), Grammy Award winning songwriter PJ Morton (performing a song he co-wrote with Robert called “No Worries”), an amazing vocalist and Grammy nominated artist B. Slade, prolific trumpeter Keyon Harrold, and Malcolm Jamal Warner joining the incomproble Lalah Hathaway to perform a moving and powerful cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Jesus Children of America”, made the evening’s performance that much more memorable.

3.  I stood next to a pair of wonderful ladies who grooved with me throughout the set, even nudging my shoulder when songs hit magic moments of musicality, and who Robert poured drinks to from the stage (more to come on them later).

4. As soon as Robert ended his set, I took a chance, called out his name and asked for the small piece of paper that I noticed was resting on one of his keyboards. That small piece of paper was his “partial setlist”, and he gladly gave it to me.

5. My friend Terrace Martin was at the show, and happened to be on stage at the end of Robert’s set after I received the setlist, and I was personally introduced to him.

6. Robert spent time after the set greeting his fans, friends and family, so I waited until the crowd dispersed a bit before I approached him to ask for his signatures on my three Robert Glasper LPs. I started to apologize for interrupting him, when one of the wonderful ladies, who happened to be standing next to Robert at that moment, looked at him and basically vouched for me. THAT was freaking awesome.

If there are forces that control the destiny of musicians and those who love music, they were definitely watching over me that evening. Word can’t describe my glee when it was all said and done, and it’ll take a lot for the other concerts I plan on going to this year to compare. Hopefully, the music gods will be keeping an eye out on me …

Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not currently available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos.

Terrace Martin | 3ChordFold | Review

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It’s been a while since I’ve heard a good concept album. A Concept Album is an album where “all of the musical or lyrical ideas contribute to a single overall theme or unified story.” In this decade (the 2010’s) there have been some solid, highly regarded concept albums that have left their mark: Adrian Young with Ghostface Killah collaboration called Twelve Reasons to Die (a black mafia member who gets betrayed by his lover), Arcade Fire‘s The Suburbs (its themes focus on regret and lost youth) and Danny Brown‘s XXX (about growing up, the fall of Detroit, and the impact of drugs on both).

A concept album was even nominated for both Album of Year and Rap Album of The Year at this year’s Grammy Awards (2014), Kendrick Lamar‘s “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City” which centers around Kendrick’s life in Compton, California and how he strived to escape it. Each song in the album follows this theme and furthers the story line. As an aside, even though I loved “The Heist”, Kendrick should have won the best rap album award … just sayin’ …

Coincidentally, a producer on Kendrick’s album released a pretty damn good concept album in 2013 as well. His name is Terrace Martin, and the album is titled “3ChordFold”. Terrace is a musician’s musician, who has produced tracks for and worked with artists like Kenrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, 9th Wonder, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, etc.

Though the album is filled with many guest appearances by notable artists (Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, Musiq Soulchild, Robert Glasper, James Fauntleroy, Wiz Khalifa, Snoop and Lalah Hathaway), Terrace’s songwriting and musical sensibilities shines through with his latest effort, use elements of jazz, soul, R&B and hip-hop, creating an album that is based on a theme of the three types of “loves” one may encounter in the search of their true love: The Freeloader, The Renter and the Buyer.

Everyone can take what they want from the music, but listening to the album in a vacuum, I came up with my own “summary” of the album. Perhaps, I have missed the mark on a song or two, but hey, it’s music. Take from it what you will. You need to listen to it for yourself and make your own determinations.

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Set against a strong saxophone line, Ab Soul introduces the idea of the trials of love, and the perils associated in the quest of looking for someone who is not a freeloader, or a renter, but someone who will “buy me out” (Intro). The problems are more fully set forth in the next song which explains the conundrum of when a “circle and a square don’t fit (Triangle Ship). The soft and sultry voice of Wyann Vaughn (the “poetess”) introduces in spoken word the idea of the “The Freeloader” which immediately has Terrace (the “protagonist”) romancing the freeloader with offers of leaving it all behind and taking off with him (Get Away) only to have those hopes shattered when he realizes that the person he is in love with isn’t as into him, as he is her (Something Else).

Still in love with freeloader, the protagonist has his first epiphany, learning that “love changes over time” and in this case, “you don’t call, you don’t text, no love, not even sex,” asking “what I’m supposed to do? Sit around and wait for you?” After the first epiphany, both the freeloader and the protagonist admit and realize that this relationship wasn’t meant to be (No Wrong No Right). Even though the protagonist knows that the freeloader can never be his, he still mourns the loss of the little things from the relationship lost (Watch U Sleep).

The poetess’ voice fades back in, and explains the situation of “The Renter”, where both parties already know “the terms” of the relationship at the outset, as they’ve both signed “the lease”. The protagonist and the renter then sing about the possibility of building a bridge between them, perhaps to erase the renter moniker, but really the renter’s modus operandi is already deeply rooted, and turning the renter into a buyer seems an unlikely scenario (Move On).

In trying to move on from the renter, the protagonist is offered the advise that “love can’t hurt you, it should be motivation” (Motivation), which seems to be taken to heart as the protagonist tells the renter that he doesn’t want to rent, he “just want[s] a happy home”, and he’s willing to do it with “The Buyer” (Happy Home), who will be his “angel” (Angel).

The protagonist then further goes into what qualities it would take for his buyer to have his love (You’re The One). On the outro, the protagonist, in spoken word, professes his love to a potential buyer, and during his preaching of what love means to him, the poetess fades in and completes the thought stating “Freeloaders get expensive, Renters never stay […] but me, I can’t help how I feel […] I’ve signed the final paperwork [.]” The protagonist’s voice then fades back in to join the poetess on “finished up in escrow, I got you baby. Long haul […] Let’s go.”

The album seems to be heading towards a happy ending as the next song is a profession of both parties swearing that they won’t play games with each other’s hearts (I’m For Real), even going a step further by offering words of encouragement with the mantra of “just pray and be patient” (Gone). There is, however, a sense of rough waters ahead as the vocals seem to warn that they are “moving to fast”. Following a wandering instrumental, the music morphs into a cover of Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It” which on the one hand could be seen as a reaffirmation of the love that the protagonist has of the buyer, but on the other hand, reading into the lyrics, just who is the “angel in disguise”? Didn’t the protagonist already acknowledge the buyer as his angel? Could it be that the protagonist finds another angel and can’t help but retread the 3ChordFold again?

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These days, the consumer predominantly tends to only purchase singles off an album. And though those individual tracks are able to stand alone, sometimes they are much more meaningful when listened to in the entire context of the album as a whole. I think Terrace Martin’s album is an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety if you are to really appreciate the music’s overall sentiment. I’ve told Terrace that his album is an album that should be released on vinyl, not only because I selfishly want to own a copy for myself being a record collector, but also because it’ll force the “buyer” to listen to the entire album without fast forwarding or skipping tracks.