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by Seth Colter Walls

October 9, 2013

R&B Jazz: Blue Note Goes Pop

by Seth Colter Walls  |  October 9, 2013

On his first Black Radio album, pianist Robert Glasper enlisted the help of Erykah Badu (who sang "Afro Blue") and, on the title cut, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def). It was a smash critical success, drawing praise from jazz critics as well as some observers who don't usually pay much attention to pianists.

And so, later this month, we'll be graced with a sequel: Black Radio 2. Three digital singles already released from the album -- including Norah Jones' guest turn on "Let It Ride" -- show what to expect. The beats created from the ground up by Glasper's fantastic Experiment band can match the directness of modern pop, but they also feel more inventive (or less copied and pasted). Jill Scott takes vocal duties on "Calls," while Patrick Stump and Common join Glasper for "I Stand Alone."

You can hear all these tracks in our appended 10-track playlist, where, for good measure, we've collected the best recent examples of the pop-meets-jazz Blue Note strategy. That means cuts from Glasper's bassist Derrick Hodge ("The Real" and "Live Today"), plus work by up-and-coming vocalist Jose James (the slinky bit of fun "Trouble"). And since Questlove has also remixed Robert Glasper's meeting with The Roots and Solange ("Twice"), we thought it only fair to include a track from the recent Elvis Costello/Roots collaboration, Wise Up Ghost. Is it any surprise that that record is on Blue Note, too?

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