It feels strange calling Robert Glasper’s R+R=NOW a “supergroup” because every group Glasper leads seems worthy of that appellation. Yet, there is something particularly relevant right now about this one, which was named out of Glasper’s desire for the group’s music to be both an accurate reflection of the times and an effective and immediate response to them.
“When you reflect what’s going on in your time and respond to that,” Glasper said in the liner notes of the band’s first album, Colagically Speaking (2018), “you can’t not be relevant. So ‘R’ plus ‘R’ equals ‘NOW.’”
That sentiment was inspired by a quote of Nina Simone’s that Glasper discovered while co-producing Nina Revisited, a companion album to Liz Garbus’ fantastic documentary on the High Priestess of Soul, 2015’s What Happened, Miss Simone. “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned,” Simone says, “is to reflect the times.”
Glasper has accepted that mandate from the High Priestess and has run with it, though not in the way you might think. R+R=NOW Live, the second recording from this group of all-stars is not overtly political; their response to this political moment certainly more abstract than one we’d expect from Miss Simone if she were still alive.
But the seven-song set, recorded during Glasper’s month-long residency at the Blue Note in October 2018, does accurately reflect the state of the gap between jazz and hip-hop, which Glasper and company continue to close. And