- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

R+R=NOW, “Collagically Speaking” (Blue Note)

Robert Glasper leads R+R=NOW, a distinguished lineup whose “Collagically Speaking” is a colorful patchwork of sounds rooted in jazz but stretching far and wide, recorded in single takes and composed on the spot.

Glasper says the R+R part of the band’s moniker stands for “reflect” and “respond,” inspired by a Nina Simone quote about an artist’s duty to “reflect the times.”

The sextet also includes Terrace Martin (synthesizer, vocoder), trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, bassist Derrick Hodge, Taylor McFerrin (synth) and drummer Justin Tyson. Tasked, along with numerous guests, with reflecting and responding, their drive for relevance is clear already from the first track.

Faced with chaos, aggression and increasingly speedy transformation, “Change of Tone” opens the album by offering a soothing balm that tries to remain above the fray while setting a contemplative mood - “All alone/different tone/different tone.”

“Resting Warrior” is an instrumental that spreads the limelight to all corners of the band’s imaginative stage, with dizzying keyboard runs and restless percussion supporting the melody most clearly carried by Adjuah’s trumpet. If the warrior rests, it’s only to gather energy for the next challenge. “Colors In the Dark” is tour de force for both Glasper’s piano and Tyson’s sparkling cymbal work.

Several guests make vocal appearances. Some, like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews or Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), appear through snippets of stimulating conversations. Others, like rapper Stalley, Omari Hardwick’s yearning poem or Amanda Seales’ discourse on strong women, become defining parts of the compositions.

Under Glasper’s guiding hand, it took R+R=NOW just four days to complete “Collagically Speaking.” Truly hearing its multiple layers will take much longer than that.

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